With freezing temperatures across the country and snow falling in places it usually doesn’t, we could all use a bit of sunshine. So leave it to Sweden’s Shout Out Louds to see us through the end of this bleak winter with their wonderfully bright and beautiful third album, Work. Though it’s a more stripped down affair than their last, Our Ill Wills, the focus is on concise rock songs that aim to propel the band into being the Phoenix of 2010.
Previous touring partners such as the Strokes and the Rosebuds as well as their friends in Peter Bjorn and John give you some idea of the sound; but with light flourishes and a feeling of equal contributions from each member make Work a wonderfully pleasant and affecting listening experience. Instead or relying on what a major label deems as an “indie rock sound” or by fluffing songs up unnecessarily, the band excel in a simple stripped down approach. Most talk for the album will revolve around producer Phil Ek’s hand in the production chair and rightfully so. Taking his work with several of the Northwest’s best bands he’s helped to streamline the band and put the focus on the root of the songs themselves.
Each song carries at least one definite hook, begging repeated listens. “Play the Game” begins slowly, enveloping you with gentle cello and bass before singer Adam Olenius wakes you up with the yearning climax. At first listen, “Walls” seems like an odd choice for the single, starting without any discernible melody before building into a driving anthemic rock touchstone of fleeing to find oneself. Bebban Stenbord keeps this from being a one man show, providing sweet and touching backing vocals that don’t happen nearly often enough through the rest of the album. Early song of the year candidate “Fall Hard” is taken to a whole new level of beauty with her answering on the chorus under Olenius’ crying out. Perhaps using her sparingly is one of the bands secret tricks, as is the sequencing and pacing of the album. Work plays out like a perfectly crafted mix tape where each following song ups the ante but doesn’t overshadow the previous piece.
From the unassuming nature of the band, straightforward indie pop, down to the album cover, (a trend that should come back, sparing us from terrible half-cocked artwork) it seems SOL are a throwback to those underappreciated underground 80’s bands. By eschewing the instrumental grandiosity and working into a clean cut sound of their own, Work moves you to great feelings of warmth and a feeling of great joy.