Release Date: Feb 23, 2010
Record label: Labrador Sweden
Genre(s): Indie, Rock, Pop
Sambassadeur's 2010 full-length, European, offers a refreshing departure from the band’s previous effort, Migration -- an album that, while it was by no means bad, was ultimately a tad one-dimensional compared to Sambassadeur's earlier work, thanks in large part to its glassy-smooth production (granted, it was pretty, but it worked to flatten out the album entirely). European can be seen as a meeting point between Migration and Sambassadeur's earlier work: it takes the jangly, shambling warmth of the band’s self-titled debut and gives it a layer of glossy varnish. It also finds the group dipping into '80s dance-pop and soft rock influences; there’s a good shake of campiness to be found on European.
From freedom fries to tea parties, the American relationship with Europe over the past several years has been as complicated as continental philosophy. Or a sibling rivalry. Coming out of a global financial crisis, the Old World way-- with less conspicuous consumption and more built-in safety nets-- looks more than ever like the better way. Named after a Serge Gainsbourg song, winsome indie poppers Sambassadeur won't shake up any Sarah Palin fan's European stereotypes.
There was a short period where Geoff Emerick, best known for engineering the Beatles from Revolver on, took on the role of producer. He had his own “sound”, which did not catch on, but which was indelible nevertheless. Central to it was a bright, highly-compressed sound, with Steve Nieve (of the Attractions) playing highly-figured piano fills. It showed up on Elvis Costello’s Imperial Bedroom, but is best displayed on Nick Heyward’s first solo endeavour North of a Miracle.
Everything about Sambassadeur's latest album is rich, from Anna Persson’s syrupy vocal tone, to the lush orchestration that garnishes each track. Having taken their name from the carnivalesque Serge Gainsbourg song ‘Les Sambassadeurs’ you expect there to be an abundance of vibrancy and passion on European, the band’s third release; though tempered by doubt and restraint, emotion lies beneath the layers of onion peel in the grey gutter of sadness. Heartbreaking piano introduces ‘Stranded’.
While on a drive in my hometown recently, I discovered that something truly remarkable had happened to the radio. Well, oldies radio. My trusted provider of decades-old Brill Building pop and doo-wop one-hit wonders had decided that oldies music had simply become, too old. Worse yet, the torch had been passed on to radio real-estate extraordinaire Pink Floyd, who seemed content to gloat, “The time is gone / The song is over.” Oh, how right they were! When my initial denial and subsequent disgust began to fade, I lamented the loss of this nostalgic staple of my youth.