Elias & The Wizzkids
A Little Less/The Dance EP
As anyone who’s been following my Ink 19 writings knows, for a number of years I’ve been an unabashed fan of Swedish pop music. Folks like Jens Lekman, El Perro Del Mar, and Frida Hyvonen seem to have an innate mastery of pop music, creating simple but fully engaging albums that handily trump their American counterparts.
As the years go by, however, it feels like some of the Scandi upstarts just entering the scene aren’t contributing many new ideas, but running the same paths Jens and Co. blazed in the early 2000s. This is especially frustrating where Elias and The Wizzkids are concerned, because lurking within their debut they split roughly half-and-half between winners and clunkers.
Where they really hit their mark is in the strident acoustic strum, lush orchestration, and strong choral vocals on tracks like “Acknowledge Me,” “Young and Hairy,” “A Little Less,” and “Friday Night.” It’s a much looser, honest approximation of Paul Simon’s early solo career than the overly-studied stuff Vampire Weekend craps out. Perhaps the defining moment of this disc’s genius is “The Mermaid” which melds a Bringing It All Back Home Dylan strum with an ode to a mermaid that includes the absurd lyric, “You were out of my league/ And talk about the sea/ You were never a fish/ No you were a mermaid to me.”
The bad notes creep in with the hollow Beatles piano-driven ballad “24,” which laments hitting the titular age and turning “old.” Singer Elias Akesson laundry-lists those things gone from his youth — like getting drunk constantly, buying his clothes at thrift stores — and how all his childhood friends have settled down with kids, jobs, and houses. The rockabilly “I Wish” doesn’t fare any better, and fluctuates in the verse and chorus between championing and condemning materialism. Aside from these two particularly poor turns, most of the missteps Elias takes can be chalked up to a lack of living up to potential. “Fourth of July,” “The Job,” and “The Dance” all suffer from not being engaging enough to be memorable.
The Dance EP throws in more question marks than exclamation points, especially on the Stray Cats-styled rave-up of Oasis’ “Wonderwall.” It’s definitely not an improvement on the original. “Regret” has a pleasant, breezy alt.country arrangement and “Autumn Leaves” taps right into Simon & Garfunkel finger-picking. They’re both as sweet and slight as the LP’s better tracks, but that’s not saying much really.
If you’re still holding a candle for Swedish indie pop, Elias & The Wizzkids will probably sate your appetite for the time being, but if you’ve got a taste for interesting music being produced elsewhere in the world, it might be time to move on.