Something’s different about Komeda. I can’t put my finger on exactly what it is, but the band that recorded Kokomemedada isn’t the same group that produced the phenomenal What Makes It Go? six years ago. The sugary melodies are still there. The fat, bassy Moogs are still there. The quirky production flourishes are still there. And yet, this can’t be the same band. I just don’t feel it.
I’m not knocking Kokomemedada at all; it’s a fine album. Like Komeda’s last three albums, it’s downright hard not to like. The Swedish trio clearly knows how to write a catchy song with oodles of quirky charm. Album opener “Nonsense” begins mellow and easy, gentle guitars and Lena Karlsson’s lazy voice teasing listeners with the “we’ve gotten more mature” vibe. But synths and drum machines shortly kick in, filling in the one necessary but missing element: fun. The second track, however, is more of what we expect from Komeda. Recycled from a Powerpuff Girls compilation in 2000, “Blossom (Got to Get it Out)” is nonsensical, silly garage pop that makes for great head bobbing and pogoing when nobody’s looking.
Like The Cardigans, who they were compared to frequently several years ago, Komeda has, for the most part, dropped the lounge aspect of their sound and have upped the new waviness. Standout “Elvira Madigan” is decadent Ladytron-ish Euro dance pop, which is as alive as it is mechanical. And “Reproduce” is hypnotic in its use of sensual synth washes and subdued 808 beats.
But there are some more organic highlights as well. “Catcher,” sung by Jonas Holmberg, is guitar driven three-chord Brit (by way of Scandinavia) pop. And “Out from the Rain” is delightfully twangy folk-pop from outer space. The band hasn’t lost their ability to mix the electric and the acoustic without sounding fractured. Instead, it all fits in into Komeda’s pop soup, whose recipe is clearly not set in stone.
There are plenty of highlights on Kokomemedada, and anybody who picks it up will surely find it a splendid listen. But having listened to What Makes it Go? off and on for the last six years, I still get the feeling that something’s different. Maybe it’s me. Maybe it’s them. But whatever the case, it’s good to be re-acquainted with an old favorite.
Saint Etienne – Good Humor
Ladytron – Light and Magic
Cardigans – Gran Turismo
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.