Stockholm … five young women, between the ages of twenty and twenty-two … savvy indie pop … perfect production ... Of course I am talking about Those Dancing Days’ sophomore album, “Daydream & Nightmares” (1 March 2011). Sophomore albums are usually a tricky thing to compose and record; from the moment of the debut release, critics and fans start to speculate what direction the band should venture down. The kiss of death, more often than not, is a sophomore slump; these slumps destroy any hope for momentum and usually have people reevaluating what their initial feelings about artists were. Of course, Those Dancing Days have nothing to worry about; without a doubt, “Daydreams & Nightmares” far surpasses the debut album, “In Our Space Hero Suits” (2008), and offers up what indie pop is really supposed to be about: inviting, radio-ready music that is not boggled down with clichés or production gimmicks.
Musically, though not a great departure from the debut, the album sees Those Dancing Days refining their sound, at the same displaying a wide range of styles. Opening with a very synthpop rift before the beat drops, “Reaching Forward” explodes into an infectious guitar arrangement that plays off the beat and synth, in much the same way as the guitar in the chorus of the Tears For Fears’ classic “Pale Shelter” did. The feel of the music shifts to the carefree, but dreamy, “I’ll Be Yours.” “Dream About Me” plays a little with the style of percussion arrangements the band uses, closer to classic post-punk experimental beats than the obvious new wave influences. So three songs in, and you cannot help but notice that the each song that follows slightly shifts and expands on what the band is sporting out.
The album includes the (indie) rocking “Fuckarias” (video below). I loved this song from the first moment I heard it back in December. What I love about this song is that it does exactly what a lead single is supposed to do: get you curious enough to listen to the rest of the album. Not the obvious single on the album, as musically it is a bit distinct from the other tracks, but then again there is no obvious single on “Daydreams & Nightmares.” Reality, just about any of these songs could have been the first single, but the band gets two-thumbs up for realizing the one the track with the sketchy title and the most rocking beat.
But gems are all over the album. Something that the band has mastered is how to arrange the music to work in tandem with the vocals; on this sophomore album, the vocals are not as focal as they were on the debut. Though the vocals and lyrics are better than the first time around, you immediately are aware of the fact that this band is finally working as well-oiled machine. So why play with this winning combination for the closing track, “One Day Forever”? Orlando Weeks, of The Maccabees, duets on this song. Now, I love Weeks’ singing, but I just could not see this working, but oh how I like to be proven wrong! Linnea Jönsson’s voice may not merge with Weeks in perfect unison, but they do converge to generate an allure that I have not heard since Jarvis Cocker and Miki Berenyi [Lush] sung “Ciao!” (one of my favorite duets of all time). The chaotic, disarray of the music as the song comes to an end just adds to the allure of the song.
Simply put: Those Dancing Days’ “Daydreams & Nightmares” is no sophomore slump. This is an amazing indie pop album for anyone interested in listening to pop that breaks the clichés and molds of what it means to be radio-friendly. And for those that consider “indie pop” such a dirty phrase, I assure you dirty never sounded better!
1. Reaching Forward
2. I’ll Be Yours
3. Dream About Me
4. Help Me Close My Eyes
5. Can’t Find Entrance
7. Forest Of Love
8. When We Fade Away
9. Keep Me In Your Pocket
10. I Know Where You Live, Pt. 2
11. One Day Forever
Keep up with Those Dancing Days at their homepage, MySpace, Facebook, and Twitter.
Here are the videos for “Fuckarias” (from the wichitarecordings YouTube Channel) and “Reaching Forward” (from the UniversalMusicSweden YouTube Channel).