So, I spent a week away from the blog, writing, and thinking in general. I needed some personal time to recharge the batteries, and, in terms of SlowdiveMusic Blog, prepare to tie up some loose ends and close out the year. As my neighbors can attest, I spent the week listening to Kent over and over again, each time louder and louder. Why it has taken me this long to write about their latest album, I cannot say, but have I mentioned lately that I love Scandinavian music? Kent is one of those bands that have it all: ingenious hooks, out of the box arrangements, a savvy pop sensibility, and a quirkiness that is all theirs. And their latest album is yet another testament to the fact when you want something done right in music, turn to a veteran band.
Kent, hailing form Sverige [Sweden] and singing in svenska [Swedish], are under-rated veterans of the music industry. Since they have made the decision to perform their music in Swedish, they have not garnered the attention they deserve in the Anglo-American music scenes; however, this should not detract anyone from taking a serious listen to this band. Very few bands can create a sound so impressionable. They released their ninth album earlier this year, “En plats i solen” [“A Place in the Sun”] (30 June 2010), and after fifteen years in the music industry, their song writing chops are not dulling. On the contrary, their chops get sharper and sharper.
Essentially their last two albums have been released back-to-back (and I was remiss in getting 2009’s “Röd” on time to review). Since 2007, the band has been trending towards a more electronic sound; however, the approach to the music is exactly the same: meticulous, very attentive to details, and keeps a single effect in mind – and I love songs that are singular in effect and not all over the place or plainly nowhere. In essence, when it comes to Kent’s music, there is nothing superfluous – every sound, every arrangement, is meant to augment the sonic experience. The music may not have a “big” sound, but each song produces a big feeling in the listener. It is impossible to listen to the music and not be moved externally to move or internally to contemplate – sometimes simultaneously.
Though the album seamlessly flows from one track to another, each song capers through with its own personality. “Glasäpplen” has some beautiful acoustic strumming and string/synth arrangements and borders on shoegaze. The lead single, “Gamla Ullevi,” has tribal-esque beats and a gritty industrial flavor to it, while the second single, “Skisser för sommaren,” has a cinematic feel to it – you can simply get lost in your mind’s eye while listening to this one. “Minimalen” would make Kraftwerk very proud, while “Varje gang du möter min blick” may very well be the most visceral song of the year. I love these kinds of songs that cause me to have a contradicting physical reaction: should my chest tighten with anxiousness or should I sway around to the sweeping arrangements? The album closes with “Passagerare,” which has a soft, melodic opening and remains nearly ethereal throughout. Short of four-and-a-half minutes, the song has a big epic feel to it. And I guess it is difficult to figure out how to end an album: should you go for the big, stadium ready finish, or a subtle visceral number, or give more of the same? Kent goes for the musically cathartic, with a touch of dream pop and simple, but effective arrangements (especially with the strings), it is hard not to want to go back and start the album … this amazing sonic journey … all over again.
The shift to electronics in the last three albums is not an attempt from Kent to garner more popularity; if they wanted that, they could simply just sing in English. Instead, “En plats i solen” is a continual journey in their craft, as they expand their musical references and refuse to reproduce the same sound over and over and over again, and if more veterans would follow their lead, they would still be producing relevant music. Do not let the fact that the band sings in Swedish, not English, dissuade you from listening to this album; if it helps any, I am very confident that this album is going to end up on my top ten of the year.
1. Glasäpplen [Glass Apples]
3. Skisser för sommaren” [Sketches for The Summer]
4. Ärlighet Respekt Kärlek [Honesty Respect Love]
5. Varje gång du möter min blick [Every Time Your Eyes Meet Mine]
6. Ensam lång väg hem [Lonely Long Way Home]
7 Team building
8. Gamla Ullevi [Old Ullevi]
9. Minimalen [The Minimal]
10. Passagerare [Passengers]
Keep up with Kent their homepage, MySpace, Facebook, and Twitter.
Below are two audio clips of songs from their current release, “Gamla Ullevi” and “Skisser för sommaren.” I also included one full-length video, “Idioter,” from their previous album as no videos from this album has been posted and I wanted to give you a feel for their music. All embeds are from their YouTube Channel: kentchannel.