Post-punk circa 2017 is a bit like it was in the mid-1980s—simultaneously creatively fertile and prone to oversaturation. Interpol’s Turn on the Bright Lights began the slow trickle back in 2002, which eventually coalesced into a debilitating flood of gloom spanning from the anthemic UK exports such as Editors and Bloc Party to the stateside guitar stabs of The Walkmen and The Rapture, and eventually the gothic grandeur of Chelsea Wolfe and Cold Cave. And here we are now, having been blessed with those bands’ wealth of material and seemingly hundreds of others like them, all of which are at the very least aesthetically compelling if not always exemplary songwriters. That’s a secondary concern when you’ve downed your third sangre de Cristo and have an uncontrollable urge to make your corpse writhe among the disco lights and fog machine haze.
Stockholm’s A Projection break somewhat from the current crop of minimal darkwave throwbacks by leaning into the bigger, more heroic songwriting of the likes of early Interpol (before Paul Banks’ ill-advised Banks and Steelz project) and Editors. The band’s sophomore album, Framework, takes them farther along the path charted on their 2013 debut album Exit, compiling 13 tracks of Cure- and Joy Division-inspired melodies rife with sinewy basslines and dancefloor-friendly rhythms. It’s a sound that’s easy to like; if you’re the type to binge on Disintegration b-sides and have well reasoned arguments about whether Barry Adamson or Peter Hook is the better post-punk era bassist, then it’s a sound that’s easy to love.
Among the 13 tracks on Framework, very few break from the standard of minor-key brooding, pulsing beats and approachably abrasive guitar riffs. They’re particularly good at it, if not breaking the mold at least occupying it with a certain shadowy, albeit twinkling flair. When they do adjust the format just slightly—trading minor keys for major, for instance—their songs go from good to exceptional. “Next Time” is one such track, employing a hook arpeggio slightly reminiscent of “Turning Japanese,” while “Scattered” is a simple yet spectacular bit of jangle that bears a passing resemblance to Modern English’s “I Melt With You.” So maybe A Projection’s strengths are actually in the moments when they reach toward greater pop heights—they pull it off well, and in those moments they transcend the post-punk revival restraints. It’s not that moments like the all-too-appropriately titled “Listen to the Dark” aren’t appealing, or even really fun. A Projection simply prove to be the rare exception of the genre in which the standard tropes feel like supporting actors to their greater ambitions.