For the past few years, the loudest and most consistently jarring track on my iPod was Love Is All’s “Busy Doing Nothing.” Every time that Josephine Olausson’s distorted shriek seared through my earbuds, it sent a brilliant shock to my system, setting my nerves into a hypersensitive state, and the hairs upon the nape of my neck to stand on end. Without fail, its arrival on a shuffle session would shake me out of autopilot and into a slightly confusing state of simultaneous jitters and euphoria. Needless to say I love every second of it.
Yet, when the Swedish post-punk band has already set the bar pretty high for exclamation-point-addled statements, both with debut Nine Times That Same Song and with follow-up A Hundred Things Keep Me Up At Night, it seems a particularly ballsy move to title the first track on their third album “Bigger, Bolder.” Frankly, Love Is All was already about as bold and big as they come, at least as far as punk-inspired indie combos go. With a new label (Polyvinyl) and 12 new songs in the form of new album Two Thousand and Ten Injuries, Love Is All have, indeed, taken that extra step, having grown bigger and bolder, sonically, since their previous outing.
Written and recorded while the band was between labels, Two Thousand and Ten Injuries was born of ideas traded back and forth via e-mail, and the low-pressure, expectation-free sessions are reflected in what is the band’s most fluid, natural and, for that matter, diverse album to date. Though the initial shock and awe of Nine Times may have subsided, in its place is a more mature, more assured band, one whose scope has widened and evolved since their scrappy beginnings.
“Bigger, Bolder,” as a song, is actually somewhat subtle by Love Is All standards. Still brimming with energy, still distorted and super-fun, it’s more Strokes or Ted Leo than Raincoats or Romeo Void, save for their squealing post-punk sax, of course. But in taking a more straightforward route, the band likewise opens up a sunnier, more joyous side of their personality. And it sounds quite fetching. By comparison, the jangly riffs of “Repetition” actually harken back to 1960s British Invasion sounds, rather than 1970s post-punk tones, and “Never Now” is utterly gorgeous dream pop, propelled by a sprightly, skipping beat.
As the album progresses, it only increases in depth and grows more interesting. “Less Than Thrilled,” while only slightly longer than two minutes, sets a new peak for the band, soaring and explosive, and truly inspiring in its dynamic and dramatic progression. “Early Warnings” finds Olausson reciting a series of unfortunate events, from slipping on a bar of soap to dropping her toothbrush and then cutting her finger, yet she turns her hard luck tale into a melodic triumph, aided in large part by a backup chorus of “ba-ba-bas.” The group does briefly return to a Slits-style reggae scratch for “False Pretense,” but soon transition into an outstanding, synth-driven standout with “The Birds Were Singing With All Their Might.” It takes nearly 100 seconds before any vocals appear, but the lengthy instrumental introduction is stunning, and only gets better from there.
Some of the biggest and most successful surprises arise toward the end of the album, such as “A Side in a Bed,” a tender and beautiful ballad buoyed by twinkling glockenspiel and some (un)surprisingly danceable rhythms. And “Take Your Time,” a dream-pop riff on Pachelbel’s “Canon,” hardly sounds like the same band, revealing a newfound versatility and a penchant for more delicate and gauzy textures. Love Is All haven’t lost their spunky, punky touch, but with Two Thousand and Ten Injuries, they’ve tapped into a wider array of sounds and stronger songwriting sensibilities. Bigger and bolder, indeed.