Jag vet hur man vantar/Thomeegrand
It’s funny and kind of appalling how I take for granted that most foreign musical acts are going to sing their lyrics in English. I’ve had countless albums from Swedish bands pass through my review stack this year and Vapnet is the only one to write an entire album in their native language. Thanks to my Swedish friends and the time I spent in Scandinavia this summer I’ve picked up a couple of words here and there, but nothing that lets me crack the content of these songs in the slightest. Luckily, this lack of understanding doesn’t matter, because the language of pop music is universal. The band’s full-length is rife with enthusiastically-strummed acoustic guitars, twinkling glockenspiel, a disco rhythm section and sauntering melodica — so much so that it practically embodies summer.
Kicking things off with the ambient, field-recording/studio hybrid “Ingang” and following it up with the quickly upbeat and driving “Storgatan,” Vapnet establishes their sound as being both straight-forward pop songwriters and experimentalists. While the forays into studio manipulation on the instrumental tracks provide great punctuation in the album, the group’s strength rests in their affinity for absurdly catchy melodies. On “Thomeegrand” electronic breakbeats propel the song through classic Belle & Sebastian territory, past both glockenspiel and melodica interludes and out through a lyric-less vocal choir. Using their various parts sparingly gives the song rich, flowing dynamics most large bands lose when they give in to excess. The disc’s final two songs are also its best moments. “Frajemansleden” features Anna Modin on vocals — a nice foil to Martin Hanberg’s nasal croon — and a melancholy skipping beat that wouldn’t sound out of place on a Camera Obscura album. The sleepy-eyed closer “Stuguvagen” wafts in like a soft-breaking dawn. Relying heavily on string flourishes and a lilting flute melody, it’s a tender goodbye after a night of youthful excitement.
The Thomeegrand Remix EP is considerably less essential than the full-length but its remixes are actually strong, innovative and different enough from the original that it’s worth a listen. Suburban Kids With Biblical Names turns in an appropriately lo-fi and scatter-brained mix, stripping away much of the sheen and replacing it with 4-track beats and juke joint piano. Le Sport tranforms the song into dark wave with a robotic beat and spikey guitar lines, while Kalle J gives into more electro tendancies replacing most of the organic-sounding instruments with woozy synths. Still as good as these are, it’s best to start with the album whether you’re in a summer environment or not.