Review : Acid House Kings - Music Sounds Better With You
PitchforkAfter a bit of time away, Swedish indie-pop aesthetes the Radio Dept. returned last year with their third proper album, the excellent Clinging to a Scheme. It was a profile-raising breakthrough release for both the band and the Labrador label. But the band didn't exactly sound joyful about the whole situation: The record sounded reluctant and distantly depressed, and various interviews revealed their own distaste for the Internet and self-publicity in general.
Sweden's Acid House Kings are another band on Labrador with an uneasy relationship to ambition, but they sound happier about what they're doing. The band, which features Labrador head Johan Angergård as a member, is back with its first LP in six years, Music Sounds Better With You. Like the Radio Dept. last year, AHK have returned after a layoff with their strongest-sounding record and a newfound vitality. The band's previous releases were low-key and shy-sounding-- when vocalist Julia Lannerheim first appeared on 1997's Advantage Acid House Kings, she sounded reserved and afraid to speak up. There's no stage fright here: the production is bright, the arrangements propulsive and peppy, and Lannerheim and co-vocalist Niklas Angergård sound confident in their newly strong voices.
Considering how long the band's been doing this (20 years and counting), such an outgoing attitude is a little surprising. "Maturity" in popular music is sometimes associated with mellowing and settling down. Very little on this record scans a "old," but the concept of growing up-- and how those shifts affect the way you live and love-- is a recurring theme. Lannerheim bemoans the 9-to-5 grind and wonders whether it's making her insane in "(I'm In) A Chorus Line", while on "I Just Called to Say Jag Ålskar Dig"-- "I love you" in Swedish, of course-- Niklas sends a dispatch to his dearest from a business trip, wondering "is it really me in the conference room?" On the charmingly upbeat highlight "Are We Lovers or Are We Friends?", he caps a slow dance by admitting that "I know I've held my hopes so high/ I almost forget that we're gonna die."...full text
NoripcordThroughout their entire career, Acid House Kings have remained impervious to any form of harsh criticism. Perhaps the affable Swedes transport their listeners to a place that’s safe and warm, protected from all the displeasures life has to offer. There’s something to be said about artists who can express a mixture of resentful thoughts in the sprightliest ways. You start to believe there isn’t any point in following the words if the songs themselves are so gosh-darn adorable. Really, who wouldn’t want to imagine belonging in a joyous rendezvous (organized, of course) in which everyone says I love you in foreign languages, actually likes the idea of discussing Proust, and looks forward to the idea of concluding the festivities with some obscure French-pop karaoke.
Well, consider yourself fooled, because that’s precisely what the Acid House Kings cleverly avoided for the past two decades. Behind the twee boy-girl harmonies and earnest melodies lay some of the most perceptive, not to mention undervalued, pieces of pop paraphernalia. From listing the days of the week before Rebecca Black made it well-known to hopelessly wanting your affection, now they want to cuddle with you. And frankly, it’s a little bit creepy. While they incited the likes of Belle & Sebastian and Camera Obscura to follow into their footsteps, it's pretty evident that their former alumni grew up into accomplished scholars, graduated college with top honors, and now enjoy a plentiful, worry-free life filled with rich pleasantries and boastful intellectualism. Acid House Kings sound defeated, like the teacher who stuck to teaching junior high because he/she was too afraid to confront any negative response.
Music Sounds Better With You abandons many of their previous acoustic incantations. Instead, their contagious merriment has altered from sugar high to powder high, imbuing a restless jitter that, once it sinks in, becomes utterly synthetic. Their reactive behavior is borne from frustration, facilitating a derivative compositional motif that’s prone to garner attention, earning them a long-awaited place in the indie stratosphere. From the outlandish theatrics in Are We Lovers Or Are We Friends? to the keyboard tapping, acoustic-driven Would you Stop?, Acid House Kings are taking their saccharine schmaltz to an almost embarrassing form of indie-pop pastiche. Band leader Johan Angergård’s songwriting can be charmingly cost-effective at times: take Under Water, a forthright nod to Another Sunny Day that shows them at their most spontaneous, and Where Have We Been? bracingly relinquishes the clear-cut mid-tempo to instill some Spanish tremolo into a psych-pop arrangement that could be misapprehended for Alone Again Or. It doesn’t help that they push the use castanets in each and every song – you’d think a healthy dose of handclaps, glockenspiel, and jangle strum would, to answer their statement, make this music sound better...full text
ThelineofbestfitAfter teasing fans with sing-a-long friendly single ‘Are We Lovers Or Are We Friends?’ last year, the band’s fifth full-length record has finally popped out into the open like a picnic basket packed with gingham fabric and pretty floral patterned plates and cups. And, it is with no small amount of excitement from their record label, Labrador, whose website has been promising “a new album defining the meaning of pop” for a wee while now. That may be overselling it slightly, but Music Sounds Better With You contains some of the Acid House King’s most accessible music to date. The catchy choruses with easy-to-remember lyrics make this album instantly appealing and set it apart from much of the twee indie-pop that’s bouncing harmlessly around at the moment.
For a guitar-playing pop group who apparently own a full set of Smiths singles, it’s a shame that the similarities with Morrissey’s men end with the cleverly worded title of opening track ‘Heaven Knows I Miss Him Now’. Instead this is the work of a gaggle of musicians who smile relentlessly and won’t take no for answer when requesting that the whole world smiles with them. This album is, to use their words, more of the “Smiths for very sunny days” stuff seen on their previous records.
‘There Is Something Beautiful’ is an easy-on-the-ear dreamy ditty about lost love that Camera Obscura might well have written had they been sunbathing in Gothenburg rather than Glasgow. If you shut your eyes, it could convince you that you’re leaving the city in an open-top vintage sports car heading for postcard-perfect countryside, breathing only the freshest, most optimistic air. Only those afflicted with the prickliest of anti-twee sentiments would be able to resist skipping along to ‘Waterfall’ with it’s marching yellow brick road beat. The same is true of ‘(I’m in) A Chorus Line’, which sounds like stripped down St Etienne, not least because of Julia Lannerheim’s pensively sweet vocals. ‘Would You Say Stop?’ has a similar effect mixing the ghostly female tones with a Belle and Sebastian backing track that bumbles along like giddy young love, tumbling down a soft green hill....full text
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