Cake On Cake – Hymns I Remember

album-cover-cake-on-cakeDo you like your sugar with a dash of coffee? Do you enjoy the way in which a little too much maple syrup totally saturates your stack of pancakes? Do you spend cold winter nights wrapped in lamb’s wool, dreaming of unicorns that would delicately prance on the fluffy snow outside your window? Are visions of sugar plums still dancing in your head long after Christmas has passed? If you find yourself answering any of these questions with an affirmative, please seek out the latest album from Swedish pixie Helena Sundin. Disguised once again under the name Cake On Cake, Sundin this time gives us Hymns I Remember, more a collection of cloying lullabies than a set of old spirituals.

Somewhere close to the icy glaze of the Cocteau Twins and the cool austerity of Nico is where Sundin and her band spend nearly all of this album’s running time. The layers of mallet percussion, keyboard, wind instruments, and reverb-soaked vocals found throughout Hymns I Remember were produced and mixed in such a way that the resultant textures aren’t all that unlike falling asleep underneath an electric blanket or down comforter; immediately, you are enveloped by a soothing and hypnotic warmth.

Variation in mood and style are altogether lacking, but it does give Sundin fourteen opportunities to show off just how polished she is at her craft. The musical equivalent of a parent waking up a young child up from a nap, the album begins with “Sunday Girl,” a track in which hush-hush vocal harmonies and understated electronic drums seem to indicate that this might just be a prologue to something far more grand looming on the horizon. Despite lyrics about a stupid blonde boy who coincidentally has the same wardrobe as Conway Twitty, the song retains an air of preciousness that you can only hope is tongue in cheek. Lyrical hints of a language barrier (“Pull up those curtains, that is covering your world.”) create an additional sense of awkwardness. Any hope of a big kick in the pants on the next track (“Visiting The Venice Biennale”) goes up in smoke faster than the decaying clink of a glockenspiel.

And so it continues: song after song of uninventive storytelling set to the tune of something that sounds like it came out of Hallmark’s best selling snow globe. The synth tones of “Missing The Snow” put a chill in the air as Sundin fondly reminisces about the joys of snow angels and alpine skiing. “The Love Advice” reads like that middle school love letter you’re ashamed of ever having written, all set to a beat that could’ve been devised by Portishead were it not for the saccharine metallophones. “Kokomo Love Song” find Cake On Cake venturing into faux-Caribbean territory, with a programmed drum beat that sounds like it was stolen from a Casio keyboard.

Only in two instances does the band dare to tread into murky (and somewhat interesting) waters. “The Box,” for all of its sickening sentimentality, gives some gorgeous cello playing a chance to be heard. The album’s instrumental closer, “Kate’s Little Paws,” sounds like so much of what came before, clarinet performance notwithstanding.

You’ve been warned. Unless your six year old is looking for soundtrack material as she shows off her new Disney princess costume to the family, approach this bit of syrupy sweetness with caution.