Year 6, Day 39: I’m Leaving on a Mayday

Year 6, Day 39: Anna Ternheim – Leaving on a Mayday

Track List

  1. What Have I Done
  2. Damaged Ones
  3. Terrified
  4. Let it Rain
  5. My Heart Still Beats For You
  6. No, I Don’t Remember
  7. Make It On My Own
  8. Summer Rain
  9. Losing You
  10. Off the Road
  11. Black Sunday Afternoon

About the Album

Leaving on a Mayday is the fourth studio album from Swedish singer-songwriter Anna Ternheim. The album was released on August 11th 2008 through Verve Forecast Records, a subsidiary of Verve Records.

Thoughts on the Album

Down to our final two albums of the year. For today’s album, I decided contrast was needed. This whole project has featured some loud and in-your-face albums that bring both the noise and energy.For today, that’s showcase some contrast by going lighter. I’ve stated many times before on this project how much I love female singers and female fronted rock bands. You can sense the energy, poeticness, and power they bring to the today, often times overlooked. This one of the reasons why I love Anna Ternheim. The Swedish singer-songwriter’s voice is equally calming and powerful. That’s why for today’s album, we’re gonna crank the volume down slightly and chill out to the pretty sweet sounds of Leaving on a Mayday.

Leaving on a Mayday is one of the albums I listen to when I need to chill out/calm down or when I’m feeling I need a pick me up. And let me tell you something, generally, I like to read the lyrics or liner notes in the album jacket, but with this album, I started to but stopped. I wanted to enjoy were the lyrics and sounds would take me. One thing that stands out the most is just how pristine and clear Ternheim’s voice truly is. Her vocals are so crystal clear and direct that she leaves zero room for any lyrical misinterpretation. Her pristine and clear vocals make enough space for the absolute gorgeous string arrangements and mesmerizing percussion. The album itself is incredibly consistent and refined and highlights/showcases just how criminally underrated Terheim is as vocalist and a songwriter.

This album is an incredibly open one; one that’ll take a listen or two to reveal it’s true hidden beauty. This openness is rather inventive too. Rather than reduce the sound or the number of instruments. it is achieved through creating a sparseness and spaciousness with the sound. This inventive sparseness actually seems to create a bigger and more richer sound. But if you pay attention the lyrics, you will find that even the most joyous moments are shot through with the trademarked Swedish sense of melancholy. Here’s the thing, after so many listens of this album, Terheim herself might as well be singing in her native Swedish. While every word is easily discernible, it’s almost as if Terheim’s voice became a whole nother instrument. This shows just how much of an incredibly perfect fit her vocals are with the song arrangements.

The track Let it Rain highlights the strength, both in her lyrics, vocals, and melodies. So much so that it seemingly invokes a primal feeling to it. Of course, you give me an excellent bass line, and I’m a happy dude. That’s where a track like the album opener, What Have I Done. It’s a funky bass line that is slightly uptempo; an excellent pick for the opener. Then there is my personal favorite, No, I Don’t Remember… an incredibly gloomy and gorgeous track. However it’s tracks like What Have I DoneLosing You, and No, I Don’t Remember that shone the brightest. Ternheim is really able to keep her power and essence with these tracks, especially with the uptempo What Have I Done and Losing You.

Conclusion

Anna Ternheim created a gem with Leaving on a Mayday. It’s an incredibly gloomy, haunting, powerful, and yet somehow upbeat album. Ternheim did something that many singer-songwriters and even other rock and rollers can’t do: write catchy and infectious songs without gimmicks. The album flows incredibly smooth like the ebb and flow of the tide. And when the final song is over, it’s as if Ternheim took you on a musical journey with her.

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Year 6, Day 12: Enjoying some “Good Times” with Mando Diao

Year 6, Day 12: Mando Diao – Good Times

Track List

  1. Break Us
  2. All The Things
  3. Good Times
  4. Shake
  5. Money
  6. Watch Me Now
  7. Hit Me With a Bottle
  8. Brother
  9. Dancing All The Way To Hell
  10. One Two Three
  11. Voices On The Radio
  12. Without Love

About the Album

Good Times is the eighth studio album from Swedish rock band, Mando Diao. It is the first album from the band to not feature founding member and dual frontman/guitarist, Gustaf Noren, as he left the band. The album was released on May 12th 2017 on BMG.

Thoughts on the Album

Mando Diao is easily one of my favorite bands, ever. Of all time. They are one of the few bands that I legitimately get excited for when they release new music. So I am sure you can imagine my excitement when I heard that they were releasing a new album last year. It was easily a Day 1 purchase. Here’s the thing, as much as fans trashed their previous album Aelitait wasn’t as bad as they were saying it was. It was however, jarring to go from 1960’s/1970’s Beatles and hard rock inspired garage rock to 1980’s new wave/synthpop. That was my main problem with it.

With that said, Good Times is a welcome reprieve from the new wave and a return to more comfortable seas, albeit, bridging the gap between the more experimental AelitaGood Times sees the Swedes sans founding member and dual lead singer/lead guitarist, Gustaf Noren, on the right direction. This direction eases the difference between old and new makes it a more comfortable listening experience. This album takes what they’ve done as a rock band and harnesses their strengths. You can feel the difference in the sound as the band sounds full of live, reinvigorated, as the music takes on the rock edge previously missing from it’s predecessor.

You can hear the more experimental synth elements that are on Aelita, but they are not over powering when fused with the traditional rock sound of Mando Diao. These synth elements and extra arrangements give the album some funky kicks to it, especially with the title track, Shake, and MoneyBreak Us, the album opener sets up the listener for Bjorn Dixgard‘s pretty much trademarked heartbreakingly beautiful and harsh vocals. It’s acoustic piano opens up the atmosphere for the entirety of the album. Break Us shows itself to be one of the most powerful tracks on the album, even with some fo the more aggressive and uptempo tracks. All The Things, Good Times, and Shake bring the mood of the album up, as if it was shot out of cannon or on a high speed elevator ride. Each of these three songs should help with dealing the weights of the world around you.

Each track is it’s own character; each has it’s own life force, almost as if they are living and breathing. All The Things is more hard rock, aggressive on vocals and melody. Good Times, is slightly less aggressive and a bit more fragile but continues with the uptempo rock. Shake, combines pure pop-rock elements along with a choir. For me, one of the few strikeouts is the 1970’s disco/funk rock Dancing All the Way to Hell. Dancing All the Way to Hell is seemingly pure decadence and a throwback to an era gone and in the dust. While danceable, it doesn’t quite click with the rest of the album.

Conclusion

Swedish rock and roll goes heavy on the catchy and melodic hooks, like the New York Yankees go hard and heavy on home run hitters. Frontman Bjorn Dixgard hits a home run with his vocals on Good Times as his raspy and guttural vocals soar magnificently throughout the album. After taking the necessary steps back to learn from previous mistakes, Mando Diao reconnects with their old sound and steers the ship into better and more clearer waters. While not revolutionary or going to reinvent the wheel, Good Times is an instantly gratifying and fun listen. And despite the horrid album artwork, this album offers the old fans and new something to enjoy.

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Year 5, Day 28: We Have some “Current Affairs” That are Medium Rare.

Year 5, Day 28: Britta Persson – Current Affair Medium Rare

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Track List

  1. Annoyed to Death
  2. Meet a Bear
  3. Toast to M
  4. Some Girls Some Boys
  5. For the Steadiness
  6. If You Don’t Love Him
  7. Big Fuss
  8. Time Machine
  9. He Flies a Jet
  10. Still Friends

About the Album

Current Affair Medium Rare is the third studio album from Swedish indie pop rock musician, Britta Persson. The album was released on September 6th 2010 through Selective Notes/Razzia Records. The album peaked at number 31 on the Swedish charts.

Thoughts on the Album

Let us end the week with some lighter sounds from the music wonderland that is the Kingdom of Sweden. In the overcrowded world of alternative/indie rock, it is hard to separate yourself from others. It’s all about creating a product that is easily accessible to listeners, original and unique, all without sounding too cliched or overdone. Triple the difficultly for female artists. But Britta Persson, with her Swedish All Star Band created am elegant album that is both spiky and snarky.

Current Affair Medium Rare is an album that is both light and airy and heavy and guitar driven. These are some smart, spiky, and snarky pop-rock songs that engage the listener. The album has some bold melodies and infectiously catchy hooks. The album has a big band sound, but it’s not as bulky. It’s “light on its feet” so to say. Tracks Big Fuss and For the Steadiness contain some of the album’s biggest and rather catchiest choruses. These choruses form a nice counterpoint for the more subtle and subdued melodies heard throughout. Though the chorus on For the Steadiness sounds a bit uncomfortable as it sounds like it spliced together with slower verses.

However, For the Steadiness is a great pop rock song. Especially when combined with the equally excellent, Annoyed to Death and Toast to M. A Toast to M is an incredibly sweet and touching song that is a touching reflection on a friend’s suicide. The song has a curious but never accusatory or condemnatory attitude.  It’s the refrain of Toast to M that absolutely soars high; a refrain that is oddly anthemic.

The album takes a tough and tender approach to pop-rock, featuring artfully deliberate guitar-heavy driven melodies and hooks. Another interesting find was the minor-key guitar riff that winds its way through If You Don’t Love HimMeet a Bear is an intriguingly dark track.

Conclusion

I will admit that Current Affair Medium Rare is a frontloaded album. While the second half seems to falter, overall it is a solid album throughout. If you’ve listened to Persson’s 2008 album Kill Hollywood Me, you may be slightly disappointed. But overall it is an excellent follow up album.

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Year 5, Day 26: Moneybrother’s Blood Panic

Year 5, Day 26: 

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Track List

  1. Reconsider Me
  2. It’s Been Hurting All the Way With You Joanna
  3. Don’t Call the Police
  4. Keep the Hurt At Bay
  5. The Pressure
  6. Positive Vibrations
  7. Golden Lonely
  8. Don’t Stop
  9. Feeling Getting Stronger in the Dark
  10. Can’t Stop
  11. Stormy Weather

About the Album

Blood Panic is the debut album from Swedish rocker, Anders Wendin and his solo project, Moneybrother. The album was released in Sweden and Europe on May 9th 2003, through Burning Heart Records. The album peaked at number seven on the Swedish charts, and was awarded a Swedish Grammy for Best Rock Album. The album is certified Gold in Sweden.

Thoughts on the Album

Moneybrother is the solo project of Swedish rock musician, Anders Wendin. Hailing from the the musically outstanding Kingdom of Sweden, Moneybrother is like a one-man wonder band. Blood Panic takes rock and makes it soulful. Anders Wendin‘s voice and vocal range is just as impressive as it is great. The album is full of power and vigor, creating a nice, new, and original sound. Take elements of soul, ska, reggae, and pop fused them together with alternative rock and you have a sound that is unique and original. From the hook laden opener, Reconsider Me to the rock of Positive Vibrations, the album has catchy melodies and hooks that’ll have you singing along to it.

One of the strengths of this album is is composition and production. With silky smooth production, the album feels like nothing is missing at all. Not many of the songs on this album lack a finishing touch. There is a huge sound complete with a brass section and a pounding and bouncing rhythm section that paces the album. The instrumentation is so elaborate, you’d think that you were listening to something else entirely. Not only that, no one section overpowers the other, allowing you really feel the big band backing Wendin. Songs like Reconsider MeIt’s Been Hurting All the Way With You Joanna, Positive Vibrations, and Stormy Weather all cross genres. But the songs leave you with a wonderful mix of rock, pop, and soul.

Conclusion

The Kingdom of Sweden is like a factory. It churns out rock bands and hockey players. Moneybrother is a product of this factory. Taking traditional Swedish rock and roll and combining it with elements of soul, reggae, and ska, Blood Panic gives you an aural sensation of a rock band with a big band sound.

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Year 5, Day 16: A “Behind the Music” look at The Soundtrack Of Our Lives

Year 5, Day 16: The Soundtrack of Our Lives – Behind the Music

Track List

  1. Infra Riot
  2. Sister Surround
  3. In Someone Else’s Mind
  4. Mind the Gap
  5. Broken Imaginary Time
  6. 21st Century Rip Off
  7. Tonight
  8. Keep the Line Movin’
  9. Nevermore
  10. Independent Luxury
  11. Ten Years Ahead
  12. Still Aging
  13. In Your Veins
  14. The Flood
  15. Into the Next Sun

About the Album

Behind the Music is the third studio album from Swedish alt-rock/psychedelic rockers, The Soundtrack Of Our Lives (abbreviated T.S.O.O.L). The album was recorded from 2000 to 2001 and released on February 12th 2001 in Europe and subsequently released throughout the rest of the world in 2002 and 2003. The album was released through Telegram Records in Europe and through Universal Records in the United States. It was the band’s breakthrough album outside of Sweden as the album was nominated for the Best Alternative Album award at the 2003 Grammys.

Thoughts on the Album

When I reviewed Communion, I asked “where to begin?”. The fifth studio album from The Soundtrack Of Our Lives was monster and behemoth of an album. Today’s album, Behind the Music from The Soundtrack Of Our Lives. It is a heavy (and heady) one, coming in at just under one hour of music. If you took 1960’s psychedelic rock and mashed it together with psychedelia and added a pinch of 1970’s Detroit rock, then blended it together into a smooth, straightforward rock and roll sound, you’d end up with Behind the Music. The build from open to close and creates an original sound that few bands can imitate. A sound that is unique and all their own.

Behind the Music, a pun on the VH-1‘s popular music series of the same name, takes rock and roll on a journey in a similar trajectory. The album leaves behind the Union Carbide Productions days and takes the music a journey that is straight out of time and space itself.  The album opens opens with the thumping and clattering, Infra Riot. For a T.S.O.O.L. song, it is arguably the catchiest song the band has ever written. It transitions into the booming drums and sharply strummed acoustic guitar of Sister Surround. With Sister Surround, you get a late-60’s Rolling Stones influence. Nevermore, is a brilliant track whose construction is built on jangly guitar and shimmering piano melodies.

One of the amazing things about this album is how the album shifts and slides between tones and moods brilliantly. It never loses it’s rock edge ever, T.S.O.O.L. has zero issues downshifting going from raging rocker to a more mellow and chilled out sound. There is so much intensity and introspection found with this album. The album closes out the journey with the shimmering Into the Next Sun. A proper close that makes you feel as if you’ve completed the journey with the band; that you’ve experience something that was both great and surreal at the same time. It’s a cheesy, but that is the only way I can describe the feeling.

Conclusion

While Behind the Music may have lost out on the Grammy Award in 2003 to Coldplay‘s A Rush of Blood to the Head (equally deserving in my humble opinion). To compare Behind the Music to the band’s previous releases devalues the more straightforward rock sound and style that it developed. Here’s the thing, I think the guys in The Soundtrack Of Our Lives figured out that psychedelia and neo-psychedelia will only get you so far. If rock and roll ever needed saving, I doubt this album is the one to save it, but for the time period of music it was released into, it certainly is one of the most brilliant pieces of music released… in a long time.

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Year 5, Day 9: Johnossi Takes a Walk on the Wild Side with “Blood Jungle”

Johnossi’s fifth studio album is the most ambitious to date and their headiest one as well.

Year 5, Day 9: Johnossi – Blood Jungle

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Track List

  1. Blood
  2. Air is Free
  3. Hands
  4. Freeman
  5. Weak Spots
  6. On A Roll
  7. Tall Dark Man
  8. Hey Kiddo
  9. War/Rain
  10. Got Your Gun

About the Album

Blood Jungle is the fifth studio album from Swedish rock duo, Johnossi. The album was released February 17th 2017 through Universal Music. The album hit number seven on the Swedish charts.

Thoughts on the Album

Johnossi is one of the bands closest to my heart. For those that are unfamiliar with Johnossi, allow me to explain at bit about them. Johnossi is a duo, a guitarist and drummer. The band’s name is an amalgamation of the guitarist (John Engelbert) and the drummer (Oskar “Ossi” Bonde). How would I describe their sound? Like a two man army. Engelbert’s unique and unorthodox guitar rug combined with the myriad of effects pedals turns Engelbert’s guitar into a one-man army. Bonde’s straightforward drumming fused with Engelbert’s unorthodox full guitar sound created a force to reckoned with. To read about Engelbert’s guitar sound click here. If you want more info on Johnossi, click here.

Now with that brief introduction out of the way, let’s talk about today’s album. Johnossi‘s sound over the years has evolved. However, while over the last decade, they’ve made massive success in Europe, they’ve haven’t made in-roads here in the States. But it’s not for lack of trying, as they’ve been delivering arena (and Richter Scale) rocking anthems for the last decade. With Blood Jungle, the duo once again expands their sound and scope. The one thing over the years that has remained consistent has been the simple, minimalist approach of guitar and drums.

The album opens with the energetic and rather uplifting, Blood. The album’s sound (and standard) is established here and doesn’t deviate too far from it. It’s got big time arena rocking power from start to finish. The anthemic songs found on the album continues with lead single, Air is FreeAir is Free changes up tempo, slows it down slightly, but continues to bring the noise. It’s a track that is full of big hooks and memorable melodies. Another track on the album similar to Air is Free is Tall Dark Man.

Hands is an interesting track. Combining hard rock with indie folk, the track is a thought provoking one about police brutality. With it’s catchy hooks and jangly guitar riffs, it takes the band’s sound into seemingly uncharted waters. Other highlights include the dance-punk, Freeman with it’s driving drums and soaring riffs; the mysterious arena rocker Tall Dark Man. The album closes with the energetic arena rocking anthem, Got Your Gun. 

Some of my favorite tracks have to be FreemanGot Your GunHands, and Blood.  

Conclusion

Overall, Blood Jungle is an interesting and unique album. The transitions between songs on the album flow almost seductively, enticing you to continue listening. While John Engelbert‘s songwriting continues to get better and shines, the help of outside songwriters on this album helps the album stay on point. Blood Jungle is an energetic yet chilled out rock album that span several different genres of rock. Featuring several songs that will become part of the band’s already arena rocking playlists, Blood Jungle shines with it’s big hooks and unforgettable melodies.

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Year 4, Day 2: Johnossi – All They Ever Wanted

Year 4, Day 2: Johnossi – All They Ever Wanted

Track list

  1. 18 Karat Gold
  2. Party With My Pain
  3. Send More Money
  4. Train Song
  5. In the Mystery Time of Cold and Rain
  6. Zeppelin
  7. Bobby
  8. All They Ever Wanted
  9. Up in the Air
  10. Lie Lie Die
  11. Break Into School (Late At Night) (iTunes bonus track)

About the Album

All They Ever Wanted is the second studio album from Swedish rock duo, Johnossi. The album was recorded in late 2007 and early 2008 and released on March 27th 2008. The album was released through V2 Music Scandinavia and Universal UK.

Thoughts on the Album

Johnossi is a Swedish rock duo consisting of guitarist and frontman, John Engelbert and drummer Oskar “Ossi” Bonde. The band’s name is a portmanteau of the duo’s names. They thing I love about Johnossi is that they produce a huge rock band sound with only a guitarist and drummer. This is featured on all their albums, most specifically their first and second album.

Today’s album is the Swedish rock duo’s sophomore release, All They Ever Wanted. The album takes you on a poetic, angst-ridden trip through the heart (and mind) of frontman John Engelbert. The album is louder than their self-titled debut. That’s how this band operates: playing “hard as fuck”, giving your ears an eargasm from a sonic assault.

This album has me torn. I like, but man does it not hold up well to either it’s predecessor or it’s successors. It’s always hard to live up to the expectations after the debut album. That doesn’t mean the album doesn’t have tracks that stand out. Lead single, 18 Karat Gold was a huge single throughout Europe at the time. Engelbert’s haunting and heart-breaking vocals reverberate throughout the song. The track is a mix of melody and muscle. The track Up in the Air is an excellent power pop style song…. with an excellent power pop chorus. Party With My Pain, the next big single from the album is an ideal mix of minimalism and pure expressionism. The track samples a line from The Presidents of the United States‘ song Lump before it dissolves into loud and bombastic garage rock.

Conclusion

While not as good (to me) as their debut or their third and fourth albums, Johnossi‘s sophomore album All They Ever Wanted is one that should be listened to at least once. While it doesn’t entirely ditch the more folksy and bluesy riffs, it a pure rocker. The album lays it’s hand on the rock side and doesn’t look back. Definitely give it a listen.

Check out other reviews of Johnossi albums: here, here, and here! Need a primer on Johnossi? Click here!

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