December 9, 2015
By Alan Raible
You may not have heard of Astropol, but they will definitely sound familiar to you if you’ve been paying attention to the indie rock coming out of Sweden. Astropol is in fact the new supergroup formed by Bebban Stenborg from Shout Out Louds, Bjorn Yttling from Peter Bjorn & John and a guy named Smash. Given the amount of pull and influence both PB&J and Shout Out Louds have in the Swedish indie rock scene, no doubt expectations should be high for the band’s full-length debut. The good news is, the album more than delivers.
Stenborg takes the lead and her voice is sweet, ethereal and sometimes a tad haunting as she sings over these songs that combine electro-pop, light shoegaze elements and dream-pop. Essentially, this album sounds exactly the way you would think it would, given its source. Somehow she is able to balance a keen melodic sense with a very present, nearly deadpan energy and these songs build in a very classic, affecting way.
Yttling has become one of the most prolific and important producers in the world. He has of course worked on records with Shout Out Louds and in addition to his work on his own records with PB&J, he has also worked with Lykke Li, The Caesars, Camera Obscura and more. It has become a rule of thumb that usually when you see Bjorn Yttling's name on a record, it’s going to be a pretty amazing piece of work.
This record is for people who like a bit of alt-rock edge with their pop. “Little Cloud” for instance is a hit waiting to happen, sounding a bit like the end of result if Chvrches decided to reinterpret The Jesus & Mary Chain, whereas “Just Before Our Love Got Lost” has a heartbreakingly beautiful building backdrop. All along, across the collection, fuzzed-out synths and guitars add interesting bits of texture.
As the year approaches its end, this is one of those late entry gems that should definitely be on your radar. With Astropol, we have a supergroup that lives up to the implied expectations. This is 2015’s last great album. It is definitely a record that should be on your radar.
“Make Love Stay” This song is structurally interesting because it combines chugging, commanding beat with elements of fuzz-rock in such a way that when it takes off, it’s not unimaginable that it could become a left-field pop hit. As it progresses, it grows and swells at an incredible rate. This song ends up being anthemic, but not in a forced, artificially manipulated way.
“Just Before Our Love Got Lost” Stenborg finds a sweet spot on this album’s many ballads that tend to sound just as powerful as the upbeat tracks. This track, “Always You And Me” and the album’s closer, “Rain Down On You” exhibit a narrative almost lullaby-like sense of song-craft without sacrificing a shred of sonic momentum. If the melodies weren’t so entrancing, this wouldn’t work, but we’re dealing with some of the best pop pros working today.
“Little Cloud” Much like “Make Love Stay,” this track takes command and builds into a mighty pop song with a dynamite hook anchored in indie-rock fuzz. Again, if American pop radio was more forward-thinking, this could definitely be a hit.