My Swedish friends tell me that schools in their country start teaching English at a very young age and that many students stick with it until the end of their schooling. That explains the Swedes’ nearly perfect grasp of English grammar, but it doesn’t account for the excellent lyrics. Do they have classes on snarkiness, sarcasm and wit or are they just inherently good at such things?
In any case, Pelle Carlberg joins contemporaries like Jens Lekman, Hello Saferide and Frida Hyvonen in creating some of the most lyrically interesting music currently written. While the majority of those other folks turn their eye toward explaining the ridiculousness of love and obsession, Carlberg opts for social issues like poverty, gender issues, unnecessary consumerism and alienation. “Musikbyryan Makes Me Wanna Smoke Crack” kicks the album off with Carlberg comparing his life of meager fame and questionable friendships with Warren Zevon’s international stardom and guest-appearances on Springsteen albums. It’s an absurd and poignant introduction to the disc. “Telemarking” is a plea to stop selling and buying unneeded things because it’s hard “to say no to a human voice,” while “Riverbank” continues this theme with Carlberg throwing all his money in the river and feeling liberated from all the useless items he would have purchased with it. On “Mind the Gap,” Carlberg is a frustrated, but silent witness to injustices like being denied the right to give money to a homeless man and being told which after-school activities his children are allowed to be involved in based on their sex.
Musically, the album packs as much of a subtle punch as the lyrics. Pulling from lush orchestral pop greats like Belle & Sebastian, Burt Bacharach, The Kinks and Blur, Carlberg throws in a all sorts of dynamic shifts, instrumentation changes and undeniably catchy hooks to please any lover of upbeat music. The breezy, Byrds-ian guitar line on “Summer of ’69” that gives way to a furious glockenspiel solo is particularly great. Everything. Now! is like Parklife for the ’00s. It’s about time.
Twentyseven Records: www.twentysevenrecords.com