El Perro del Mar
Look! It’s El Perro del Mar!
Take the girl-group acts in Phil Spector’s stable or from Motown’s heyday, strip off the wall of sound, slow the beat down by half and you end up somewhere around Sweden’s El Perro del Mar. A one-woman band, Sarah Assbring builds minimalist, dusky pop numbers that feel more appropriate as underpinnings for these types of songs’ lonely laments than the upbeat sounds of their predecessors. The cavernous bass drum that rings in “Candy” sets the standard for the rest of the tracks on this disc. With a gently-strummed acoustic guitar and some minor key Rhodes melodies, Assbring turns the line “I’m going for to buy me some candy/on a Saturday night” into the saddest statement you’ve ever heard. Later on “People” she admits, “I can’t understand people/I guess that’s alright/’cause they don’t understand me.” It’s heartbreaking. Even on when she sings, “I’ve lost the blues for you,” on “Coming Down the Hill,” more than a tinge of melancholy frames her phrasing. There’s something in the confluence of the bare bones instrumentation and Assbring’s defeated, exhausted vocal delivery that hits much harder than other performers of this ilk. Perhaps it’s the simplicity and directness in her sentiments that sets her apart; she’s not over-reliant on abstract metaphors or emotional pandering. In any case, there’s never been a singer I’ve heard who sounded more in need of a hug. On the off chance you see her, please give her one for me.