As the story goes, Emil Svanangen returned to Sweden after his last trip to the US, holing up in the country with various orchestral and chamber groups. One listen to his new album under the Loney Dear moniker and you’ll see the grand effect the entire venture had on his writing, leading to a record with lush arrangements and careful touches, the like we haven’t quite heard from Emil.
If you’re reading carefully, you can skip beyond album opener, “Name,” as it really is more of a carry-over from early Loney Dear work. But, “My Heart” gives birth to a fuller sound. Accompaniment trickles, but as the song continues forward, you can here bits of electronic bass gurgling beneath, waiting to be unleashed. It never quite jumps out, but the presence in the background adds a greater density to the track, which is much the case for the entirety of Hall Music.
But, with all the attention to detail, would the music really alter that much in the long run? It’s a simple answer, no. You see, the highlight of the group has always been Emil’s voice, a very distinct delivery like that of Justin Vernon, where you realize right away you’re listening to a Loney Dear album. “Loney Blues,” for instance, definitely sounds more complete than many of the songs from Dear John. There’s a general swell in the construction of the song, allowing the melody to sweep you away in a much more powerful manner than in past outings. Svanangen’s voice truly carries your listen, especially when you come to tracks like “D Major,” which might just be the best song he’s written to date. A gentle guitar opens, serving as ground zero for the whole track, but the vocals have this pitch that just sits perfectly in the foreground of your speakers. Once the backing vocals join in during the last minute of the track you can’t help but to get emotionally carried away.
Still, the effort put into the craftsmanship on Hall Music shows that Emil’s really reaching to find a larger sound, one that harkens back to his initial return to Sweden. “Durmoll” uses horns and string accompaniment to create a song that’s both grandiose and simple, but it works. Or take a listen to “Maria, Is That You,” which appears as more of a spoken word piece set to studio tinkering. We should all applaud the man for refusing to put out the same record time and time again, moving ahead as his heart desires.
For most of us, we’ll take our melodies and our pop appreciation, enjoying our simple pleasures. But, it’s clear that Loney Dear won’t willing accept the status quo in pop construction, pushing himself to create songs that go beyond the basics. You get the feeling that while he’s several albums into his career, Hall Music marks a huge leap forward into the pantheon of great modern songwriters. Congrats Emil.
Download: Loney Dear – My Heart [MP3]