Writer's Block (LTD Edition with Bonus Disc)
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This Swedish trio (Peter Moren, Bjorn Yttling and John Eriksson) who mix the sounds of classic '60s Baroque Pop, Power Pop and New Wave, creating and exciting and original sound. Fans of Sahara Hot Nights, The Concretes, Badly Drawn Boy and The Shout-Out-Louds and Swedish Pop music in general should seek this out immediately! 'The songs are Great' New York Times, Young folks is the coolest song ever to appear on Grey's Anatomy' Rolling Stone.
As fine an album as this might be (and indeed it is), it serves a much higher purpose for which it must be immediately recognised. The twee Swedish trio have single-handedly tugged whistling out of popular music's pits where it was stuffed by German soft metal granddads The Scorpions back in the early 90s. It's not even particularly proficient whistling it's a bit skewiff really, a little out of tune but it's tacked onto the irresistibly bobbing, Velvet-Underground-via-The-Concretes infectiousness of "Young Folks", augmented by the warm-ember vocals of ex-Concrete Victoria Bergsman herself, and by association sounds fairly heroic. Accidentally anthemic, perhaps, but anthemic nonetheless. Result.
Which sets a tone for the rest of this off-kilter lo-fi record. Draw a slightly wonky line from Simon & Garfunkel through to The Shins, making sure you take in the sharp Scandinavian indie-pop of the '90s (Wannadies, The Cardigans) and modern day peers (Radio Dept, Shout Out Louds) and you have a folk album that isn't really all that folk, swimming through its own dreamy washes of ambition. The drumming on tracks like "Let's Call It Off" and "Paris 2004" is so elementary you might as well add your own, but it keeps the intuitive, simplistic 60's beat melodies trickling steadily onwards. The underlying appeal is that things could snap like an elastic band at any moment, that things are beautifully limited. Less writers block, more loving the detail of your first chapter so much you have no inclination to move on. --James Berry
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First, a somewhat "professional" review of it, though that's not saying much considering any entertainment medium is full of complexity and depth. Beyond emotional attachment to this album, it stands out because of its tone, its varied use of instruments, and its composition. From all the PB&J I've listened to, they truly excel at one thing: switching it up. Every album has its own life and they're all intrinsically linked at the same time. This one fuses their ability to craft incredibly catchy pieces of music with along with an extremely mellow and feel good sound (which is EXACTLY what I crave). You listen to the sensational "Young Folks" and can't help but sing and whistle along, and yet there's something in the music that goes deeper than just "pop." Put up "Up Against the Wall" and you're in for an incredible piece of musical composition that speaks volumes in its moments without lyrics. The way each song is made seems beautiful and non-excessive -- they didn't throw anything "extra." It is exactly as it needs to be, and is perfect in that sense. Add in the incredibly diverse amount of instruments they implement and you have an album that is obviously created with love and care -- not for profit, but for art.
Now as for my personal affinity for it, Peter Bjorn and John's album Writer's Block is by far my favorite album of all time. This comes from a guy who got his taste in music from rock and metal (System of a Down, In Flames, etc...). But as any true lover of music, taste evolves and grows. This album personally for me has infused into it many emotions that resonate with me. It's one of those albums that doesn't excel because of its lyrics (while those are quite nice), but because of its flawless musical composition. There's something about the overall mood of this album that quite literally synchronizes with my heart. I'm sure many people have ran into songs or albums like that -- ones that just seem to "get you." That's what this album is for me. It also came into my life during a very important time and helped me with a great deal.
This album is another excellent addition to their output, a blissful collection of music that will brighten up your day, or night. Listening to these songs, I hear all sorts of influences and parallels to other groups, and all of them great ones. It's like a mix of ELO (Electric Light Orchestra), OMD (Orchestral Maneuvers in the Dark), and the dBs, mixed with the classic pop sheen of a 60s band like the Beach Boys. Clean, shiny, and powerful. Feel the motor running and take a ride on this music machine! Fun, fun, fun!
"Writer's Block" (11 tracks, 46 min.) starts of with the title track, which is really a 30 sec. instrumental intro to the real opener of the album, "Objects of My Affection", which set the table for the album. It is followed by "Young Folks", the single that I heard on rotation on WOXY, and it's an irresistable whistle-along song, just great. Other highlights including the funny "Amsterdam" ("Baby went to Amsterdam/She put a little money into traveling"); the epic 7 min. "Up Against the Wail", with a fantastic and hypnotizing long instrumental outro, the best track on the album for me; the sweet and gentle "Paris 2004"; and "Let's Call It Off" (another obvious single), all of them just irresistable. The album goes one song too long with the unnecessary closer "Poor Cow", after the preceding song "Roll the Credits" had indeed just done that, and reason I can't rate the album 5 stars. The CD I got came with a bonus CD (6 tracks, 24 min.), which brings a mix of previously released songs and demos or remixes of the new songs. The highlights are "Ancient Curse" and "Self-Pity". I wasn't too keen on the sitar (!) instrumental and the remix versions of "Young Folks".
In all, I haven't stopped listening to this album since I got it a few weeks ago. It is without a doubt sure to end up on my list of best albums of the year (please note that this relates to the US release, the album was released last year in Europe). I will see Peter Bjorn & John in concert at Coachella at the end of April, and I can't wait to see how the songs of this album will translate in a live setting. "Writer's Block" is HIGHLY recommended.