Swedish pop group Peter Bjorn and John are apparently trying to confuse us, and for a brief time, it works.
Their third album "Writer's Block" has the misfortune to open on a rather saggy note, but fortunately hoists itself up for a blurry blend of indiepop and northern atmospheric synth. So straggle through the first two tracks, because the indiepop that follows is solid, multilayered and quite enjoyable.
It opens with a faint, atmospheric little track that sounds like Sigur Ros tuning up. Then suddenly it careens into nonstop guitar pop in "Object of My Affection," with drums pounding right over those steely riffs. "And you still can make sense/if you just show up and present an honest face/instead of that grin," Peter Morén sings happily.
Not only is it a lot simpler than the other songs, but I got a headache from those relentless drums and guitar. At that point I was groaning, anticipating a whole album of the same. But I was wrong.
Things start perking up with the shimmying, sunny indiepop of "Young Folks," which has some enchantingly feathery edges and constant whistling. The other songs have a similar mix of shimmery keyboard and solid indiepop -- thumpy little marches, swirling psychedelic hymns, gentle ballads blooming into driving guitarpop, folksy ballads, and the shimmering prettiness of "The Chills."
For your info, there is no Peter Bjorn -- it's actually "Peter, Bjorn and John," three Swedish guys who play the instruments and all provide vocals. And despite a couple of mediocre songs on "Writer's Block," these guys really know how to make great indiepop -- lots of northern wind and snow, and a delightfully sunny 1970s pop mentality.
There's plenty of ringing, peppy guitar and unstoppable bass from Morén and Björn Yttling, while John Eriksson provides some fast drumming as well. Yttling swaddles almost all the melodies in a hazy edge of soft, colourful synth, and turning some of them into bittersweet, chilly pop. Most of the songs are pretty upbeat, even with a bit of harmonica and whistling to remind us to be cheery.
Much of the album is about sort of ambiguous -- half of it seems to be about breaking up with a lover, and the other half is about how much you adore them. "Your tongue is sharp/but I miss the taste of it/You said time heals/there's not enough of it..." Moren sings in his slightly nasal voice. It's just a few songs after, "Hours seems to disappear/everyone is leaving -- I'm still with you."
"Writer's Block" has a couple tracks that don't quite fit in, but the overall album is a delicious blend of cheery pop melodies and blurry keyboard. Definitely a good listen.