Release Date: Oct 4, 2011
Record label: Polyvinyl
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Pop/Rock, Indie Pop, Swedish Pop/Rock
"Words fail," notes Emil Svanängen part-way through Hall Music. It probably isn't intentional, but that sliver of lyric sums up the thinking behind his sixth album as Loney, Dear. Love is too complicated, too ecstatic, too painful, to articulate without drifting into cliche ("Last night I dreamed about you again"), sentimentality ("I want your name next to mine"), or petulance ("I wanted someone seeing how sad I was").
If there’s one thing Loney, Dear troubadour Emil Svanängen isn’t, it’s someone you’d want playing your party. Well, actually, let’s be clear on this. If it was a hip-shaking, dance-floor packing, rug-cutting sort of shindig you were after, the Scandanavian multi-instrumentalist would be so far down the list he’d be underground. But, if you're playing host to a simple night of social hob-nobbing, peppered with slabs of stinking cheddar and guests glugging back goblets of pinot noir, then Svanangen is the man to call.
[a]Loney, Dear[/a]’s Emil Svanängen, it is often said, could do with a big cuddle. Not that it’d make much difference, you feel – the Swedish songwriter’s fifth LP is mainly another delicate sojourn into oceans of really-fucking-mellow. This time, the horns are a-tootin’ (‘D Major’) and the church bells chiming (‘My Heart’), meaning that while, say, ‘[b]Largo[/b]’ starts like a Pixar remake of Werner Herzog’s alcoholism, prostitution and crime lark Stroszek, there’s a fireworking climax round every miserable corner, chasing the shadows, catching the sun.
Taking a wide-angle view of the sweeping vistas he's spent years detailing in miniature on his often home-recorded albums, Hall Music-- Swedish softie Emil Svanängen's sixth LP as Loney, Dear-- is his most elaborate work to date. Where there once was little more than voice and guitar and a bit of keyboard, there are church organs and double bass and, at the end of "Calm Down", a gorgeous vibraphone solo, all swirling around Svanängen's high, lonesome vocals. Matching an intimacy of sentiment to a grandiosity of sound, the longing in Svanängen's throat seems palpable and piercing, and the rich orchestral arrangements he drapes over these tunes mostly serve to heighten Svanängen's matters of the heart.
Emil Svanängen has always been more adept at texture than hooks. Even upbeat songs, like “Airport Surroundings,” from 2009’s Dear John drift into kraut-like hypnosis, the insistence of the rhythm overrunning Svanängen’s hushed croon. This isn’t to discount Svanängen’s work as Loney Dear outright, but rather to acknowledge the crucial difference that makes the frequent comparisons to artists like Jens Lekman ring a bit hollow.
For his sixth album as Loney Dear, Swedish songwriter Emil Svanängen stretches his soundmaking skills. Hall Music occasionally features instrumentation that could clash, but Svanängen successfully blends them into lovely arrangements. The tone’s the thing on this album—it’s memorable and impressive enough that Svanängen has to work to keep up as a lyricist and melodist.
On his fifth album, Emil Svanängen (aka Loney Dear) decided to change things up quite dramatically. Where previous albums had been filled with big arrangements that filled his melodic songs to the brim with instruments and sound, on Hall Music he both scales back and expands his sound. By stripping out (or at least being less reliant on) traditional instruments and percussion, and adding in more unique things like church bells, odd synths, and harp, Svanängen adds to the dramatic impact of the songs.
In his native Sweden, Emil SvanÃ¤ngen recorded four albums in his parents’ basement, and self-released them under the moniker Loney, Dear. These albums became something of a word-of-mouth phenomenon, eventually leading to his third LP, Loney, Noir, getting the reissue treatment by heavy-hitters Sub Pop. SvanÃ¤ngen continued to record at home for his Polyvinyl debut, Dear John, and, following an American tour with label mates Asobi Seksu, SvanÃ¤ngen returned to Sweden to perform a series of shows with chamber orchestras.