Oh Sweden … is there any facet of pop music that you don’t have the U.S./U.K. beat with a superior version? It’s true there have been a couple of less than stellar releases that have gotten through the normally excellent filter at Hidden Agenda, but recent gems from Jose Gonzalez, Moonbabies and now David Fridlund seem to cement the country’s pop standing more than ever.
Fridlund’s Amaterasu is an album populated with slow-burning Leonard Cohen inspired tales of spiraling sadness and piano-based ballads. Acting largely as a one-man-band, Fridlund pulls off baroque songwriting with the deftness and gravity of Mull Historical Society’s Colin MacIntyre, rather than relying on willful eccentricity like Badly Drawn Boy. Fridlund also eschews any of the fey tendancies inherent in this sort of sensitive music. While keeping relatively composed and quiet in his melancholia throughout, he lets the occasional glimpse of desperation out, as on the screamed vocals that usher out “3 Pictures (Of You & You & You)” and the epic minimalist expanse that builds on the introspective “Before it Breaks.” They’re very poignant punctuations to Fridlund’s usual emotional control. It’s all awfully close to perfect, and with the mindset that comes with fall looming close on the horizon, it will only get more so.