Swedish pop duo Club 8 has had an impressive run. For twelve years, they’ve been crafting impeccable pop that’s just as diverse as it is consistently good. Of course, it’s taken a while for Karolina Komstedt and Johan Angergård to make a name for themselves this side of the Atlantic, but those who hadn’t been keeping up were given a second chance and a study guide with this year’s Labrador 100 compilation, which featured many of the group’s singles. Those who delved into that box set’s tasty nuggets would have been greeted with a band whose sound has always had a diverse set of influences, anywhere from twee to dance pop. And yet they never fail to make each track simultaneously beautiful and catchy.
Merging said varied influences into a breezy and beautiful whole, Club 8’s sixth album The Boy Who Couldn’t Stop Dreaming is a laid-back, Autumn affair, lush and intricate. Despite its somber underpinnings, however, Boy is a hopelessly catchy pop album designed for instant pleasure, no matter the level of melancholy or subtlety. Their previous, and highly acclaimed, outing was titled Strangely Beautiful, a name which summed that record up nicely, but partially applies to this one as well. I say “partially” because, for the most part, the beauty in their songs is actually quite conventional. From strings to delicate guitar melodies to Komstedt’s gentle vocals, beauty seems to be the band’s aim on The Boy Who Couldn’t Stop Dreaming, an aim that they effortlessly achieve.
The beauty on this album is put through different filters and touched up with subtly variant hues. Though Club 8 never puts their graceful pop through any kind of grime, Motown or microhouse metamorphosis, their songs nonetheless jump between atmospheric ballads and jangly pop music, with traces of new wave and Tropicália speckled among each lovely track. Komstedt wrestles with faith on the gorgeous leadoff track “Jesus, Walk With Me,” pleading “fool me into believing/ before I go I need to be/ something more than the skin and bones you see.” With a stronger emphasis on the danceable, “Whatever You Want” finds the duo breaking out the shakers and other hand percussion for a much more energetic number, hands clapping giddily between verses.
The laid back folk-pop of “Football Kids” recalls a more straight-faced Belle & Sebastian, particularly for its hearty layer of Hammond organ, while “Hopes and Dreams” is far more ethereal, floating through a gorgeous reverb haze, kissed with the gentlest synth’s graces. Before the mellowness becomes too overbearing, “Heaven” picks up the mood with a classic pop love song coupling bongo beats with Johnny Marr-like guitar riffs. Truthfully, just about everything here is a love song, but much like Stars, whose Heart isn’t all that different of an album from The Boy Who Couldn’t Stop Dreaming, love songs come naturally to the duo. There’s nothing cliché or innocuous, though there isn’t anything particularly complicated either. Club 8 merely has a gift for simple and quietly beautiful pop music, one that’s only gotten stronger over the years.
Saint Etienne – Good Humor
Stars – Heart
Belle & Sebastian – If You’re Feeling Sinister
MP3: “Whatever You Want”
Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.