While all the attention on Swedish pop these days seems to be focused on the English-speaking acts like The Concretes, and Labrador house bands like Acid House Kings, Suburban Kids With Biblical Names and, personal favorite, Pelle Carlberg, for my money, the wholesome, clean-cut quintet, Raymond och Maria may be creating the best pop music in Sweden. The decision to sing in their native tongue may be what?s kept them out of the major American and British market, but it certainly won?t prevent me, a confessed Svenksaphile from touting the merits of one of the year?s best releases. Picking up where their masterful debut left off, the album (roughly, ?However Much I Take, There?s Always A Little Bit Left?) opens with ?Dikter p? fel S?tt,? with a rambling little acoustic guitar a la Nick Drake or vintage Paul Simon rolling along under sisters, Maria and Camilla?s angelic soaring vocals. The snappy lead single with the shockingly mean-spirited title, ?Storstadskvinnor Faller Ner Och Dor ? (?Big City Ladies Fall Down and Die?) that is probably meant to be satirical, gallops along at a brisk pace, with sprightly, dueling piano embellishments from Mats Schubert and David Nystr?m.
Dance around the room to the bubbly ?Hur Andra M?nniskor Bor? (?How Other People Live?) and then mellow out to the nice change of pace of ?V?ntar? (?Wait?), with its lovely, flowing string arrangements. ?Varf?r Ska Vi G?ra Allt Igen? (?Why Must We Do Everything Again?) is so chock full of soaring ?la la la?s,? toetapping backbeat, and handclaps that it turned even yours truly into a giggling schoolgirl! The album ends with the magisterially baroque ?Prins Carl Phillip? (both the crown prince of Sweden as well as a swinging party boat), with its simple yet elegant piano backing behind Maria?s wonderfully proud and nationalistic vocal performance.
As I mentioned when reviewing their debut, it doesn?t matter that you can?t understand what they?re singing about ? just listen to the bubbly, upbeat music and the sisters? emotional vocals that you can almost understand the fun time they had recording it and that effervescence spills out of your speakers on almost every song. Like a folkier, more down to earth Abba or, if it will help convince you American and British A&R reps to secure a label deal for them pronto, we?ll reluctantly toss out the dreaded ?a Swedish Belle & Sebastian? comparison. Either way, this is the happiest, most uplifting, smile-inducing album you?re likely to hear all year, and I invite you to check your musical xenophobia towards all non-English-speaking artists at the door and pick up what will surely be one of your favorite releases this year. Highly recommended to fans of Nick Drake, Simon & Garfunkle, the Swedish Labrador label, The Concretes, and, of course, Belle & Sebastian. 10/10 -- Jeff Penczak (24 April, 2007)