Friday, August 3, 2007

Reviews:: Pelle Carlberg In a Nutshell

Sometime what you see is what you get. Take for example, Pelle Carlberg. The cover of his new record - In a Nutshell - looks like it was taking for a college annual, complete with the leave covered brick of the old Life Science building in the autumn sun.

Then you look at Pelle. He's looking very casual, scholarly, and wearing a husky black turtle neck. Essentially he looks like someone who would engage in debates and identify with the students in Dead Poet's Society. Someone whose opinions you assume are pompous and definitely not someone you'd want to have a drink with.

On first listen, you could easily assume his songs are simply as they appear as well. But they, like Pelle himself, have a biting wit and keen sense of observation that rests just under the surface. The more you sit and listen to the record, the more you find yourself immersed in it (and to be honest, the more you wish you had the chance to sit and chat with the Scandinavian song writer).

When I think of music that fits that description, my thoughts drift to more literary artists like Belle and Sebastian, Jens Lekman and of course the Smiths and that is exactly the company Pelle's music lets him keep. The record is a whimsical, satirical journey full of clever titles (Even A Broken Clock (Is Right Twice A Day) for example) and even more impressive melodies.

While it may appear that I'm poking fun at Pelle, that couldn't be farther than the truth. I've spent many hours listening to those artists I compared him to, and this record will more than likely receive the same treatment. I mean, who ever gets tired of fantastic sing alongs, hand claps, horns, chimes, strings, pianos and thought provoking lyrics?

But the key to his songs is his sense of humor. As you listen to his anthem of mediocrity and middle class guilt - Middleclass Kid, you hear a tale about the most run-of-the-mill hardships that are matched with a brilliant bouncing melody. Hand claps and a banjo compliment his lyrics, which are so nonsensical and light that on the outside they almost seem to be an added as some kind of afterthought. You sort of assume he's paying respect to the Smiths, but after some thought realize he might actually be taking the piss. And like the best jokes, it's great for those who catch the subtle jab.

Clever Girls Like Clever Boys Much More Than Clever Boys Like Clever Girls is as perfect a pop song as I can remember hearing, rich in hand claps, harmonies and horns - the type of song you heard on Tigermilk that makes you wait on baited breath for new Belle and Sebastian records. Carlberg, like Jens Lekman (think Black Cabs), writes lyrics about such everyday events (like a grocery cart with a wonky wheel) and uses such cheery guitar lines that you can't shake the sounds, instead quickly digesting them at face value. He can sing about the most depressing, love sick situation but make words feel as light as a feather. It seems like such a simple recipe, but so few combine the ingredients in the right proportions needed to balance the flavors.

What makes Pelle's songs so great are that despite the light, airy nature the songs usually have a underlying bite. He points out foibles of society, but never once does he raise his voice or lose the smile on his face. It's that delicate delivery that lets him slip his sharp tongue and quick wit into a conversation so effortlessly. But hey ... even if you miss the joke, the songs are so damn lovely you don't feel left out.
MP3:: I Love You, You Imbecile
MP3:: Clever Girls Like Clever Boys Much More Than Clever Boys Like Clever Girls

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Posted at 6:02 PM by ack :: 1 comments

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At 9:38 AM, Blogger Any major dude with half a heart did sayeth:

Thanks for that. I had never heard of Pelle before, and now chanced upon two blogs bigging him up. Sweden really is the centre of the Indie universe right now.

 

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