Form a band, move to Sweden, Gothenburg specifically, and write a musty, rain-soaked album about displacement. That’s the gist of The Consulate General – a supergroup of sorts; its collaborators hail from other, more heralded groups (Slowdive being the most prestigious) that’s primarily the brainchild of Boy in Static constituent Alexander Chen. The Consulate General project’s debut album Person Number is delightfully unclassifiable, ranging from experiment-ish plonks to buttoned-up Scandinavian pop music.
The Swedish origin story of Person Number is laid on pretty thick. Opener “What Time is it Now,” amidst northern chimes and snowy production, is centered on a delirious, jet-lagged couplet; “What time is it now in Sweden? /when’s the sun rise in Gothenburg?” It’s quickly clear that the country has had a direct impact on the album’s sound and you get the feeling it has served as a sort of escape for Alexander. The next song, “On the Run”, is a quiet, wistful tune, punctuating every lyric with a solemn “you’re on the run /you’re on the run again.” We’re never privy to what exactly ‘you’re’ is running from, but I get the feeling that Chen himself isn’t that sure either.
Person Number straddles forward-looking found-sound operations and winterish Scandinavian indie rock with a lot of success. The more unconventional bits never assault ears or sacrifice listenability – instead only bolstering the overall peculiarity of the record. The pop sensibilities are distinctively European, in the same field as other pensive, well-dressed young men like Peter Bjorn and John and Jens Lekman. Even at its most morose, (“Have You Seen My Girl” comes to mind) we’re still in toe-tapping territory. Endurance is never tested.
Person Number’s limitations are surprisingly spare. You’d think something of such a distinct sound would tire easily, but even on repeated listens, most of it stays interesting. Obviously it’s not all vital, a few tracks leave a little to be desired and the album lacks a true knock-out single – but honestly that shouldn’t muddle its overall merit. The album hollows out a particular niche of indie pop that sticks to ears and resists immediate categorization, and that will always be an easy endorsement.