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The Cardigans 1996 release
These days it's getting harder to tell the real pop twerps from the hip parodists--both of whom make music sweeter and more dizzying than cherry wine. Take Sweden's Cardigans, for example: On one hand, they work the same delicious Bacharach lounge jazz and gooey '60s girl swoons as Pizzicato Five, a group whose retrokitsch is delivered with a big, fake-eyelashed wink. On the other hand, the Cardigans come from a land that gave us Abba and Ace of Base, sincere pop legends if ever there were. The Cardigans, it seems, could go either way, and their subtle blend of pop-for-pop's-sake with pop-for-joke's-sake makes their first American release, Life, all the more a modernist gem.
There's no use digging below the surface of Life's amazingly catchy opening quartet of tunes. All the joy to be extracted lies right on the surface: "Carnival"'s loopy organ and punchy beat is all cotton candy and merry-go-rounds; "Daddy's Car" is a fun-fun-fun ride to the up-up-and-away; "Fine" soars heavenward while "Rise & Shine" is mile-a-minute perk-me-up. From there, though, "Our Space" ventures deeper, into darker and moodier atmospherics and a trip-hoppy electronic shuffle. Singer Nina Persson's crystalline lullaby voice keeps it all sounding innocent as hell, but when she sinks her candy-coated teeth into a Black Sabbath cover ("Sabbath Bloody Sabbath") she exposes a few sinister cavities. By the time she closes the album, exulting "No one can be happier than me!" the effect is eerie enough for David Lynch. With Life, the Cardigans give us pop till it hurts. --Roni Sarig
Top customer reviews
Let's get this out of the way; my favorite song is probably the most depressing number on the album, "After All...". One close listen to the song and its lyrics will leave you floored. It hits too hard but made for a beautiful tune. Other songs that I adore are the chipper "Carnival", the single "Sick And Tired", the slow "Beautiful One", the fantastic "Travelling With Charlie" and the happy "Fine" with its wondrously offbeat guitar work.
This album is pretty campy (at its poppiest anyway) but if you like upbeat pop with a vocalist who sings with a sugary sweet tone (think Mandy Moore or the late Aaliyah) then by all means get this. It's more than solid. There is a lot of pop and rock coming through my speakers when I listen to this. And like some others have said there are touches of jazz here and there. Lots of keyboards, drums and guitars throughout which I loved. Those are my 3 favorite instruments (well I prefer pianos but you get the drift, lol!).
P.S. "First Band On The Moon" is the superior disc IMO. I have every song rated at "5" on iTunes with that album except one which is still a solid "4" (that track is "Heartbreaker" for those that care). Can't say the same for this disc although it's very good too. Guess it just comes down to personal preference. "FBOTM" is a lot sadder/bleak-sounding album and this one (overall) is more chipper.
"Carnival" opens the album with a nice uptempo funk beat and an insistent jazzy pop melody with some well orchestrated strings. Surely one of those easy hits that was also instrumentally rich at the same time. "Daddy's Car","Fine","Rise & Shine" all take on a Beatlesque guitar pop attitude that returns at the end of the album in "Happy Meal". The vibraphone led minor chorded and the swinging gypsy jazz guitar led "Celia Inside,which along with the flute led sunshine pop/rock of "Over The Water" (a style revisited later in the album with "Sick & Tired) are actually taken from their debut Emerdale are all heavier jazz-pop oriented pieces with intricate arrangements. "Tomorrow" and a cover of Black Sabbath's "Sabbath Bloody Sabbath" are both upbeat soul rockers. while " "Beautiful" is another Beatle style number in a scaling guitar ballad style.
One of the conversations I recently had with my blogging partner/long time friend Rique was about the vitality and significance of music that used a mixture of both a European or Afrocentric form and content. And for the most part this album brings out that important aspect of pop-how fundamentally jazzy the pop form of popular music out of America is. Considering that so many probably felt this albums embrace of that was part of the lounge revival of the mid/late 90's? It would seem from listening to this Swedish quartet knew exactly what they were doing. And recognized the importance of rhythmic and melodic complexity was to well rounded melodic pop. In that sense? This might be one of the most astute and well realized straight up pop albums of the mid 90's.
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