Some albums just hit the right spot. Queen of the Wave, the fourth album by Scandinavian experimental pop duo Pepe Deluxé, is precisely that kind of album. While the group’s prior releases have been noteworthy in their own right, this three-part pop-opera (their description, not mine) is their most cohesive and impressive yet. Their music primarily consists of instrumentation by mega-multi-instrumentalist Paul Malmstrom (the list of what he plays on the album might consume this entire page if I were to list them) that are then fused with guest instrumentals and vocals by the crafty hands of James Spectrum. The result is a well-organized composition consisting of parts almost too bombastic to fit together. Yet, somehow, this contradiction works quite well.
Equal parts Queen, Air and Apples in Stereo, Queen of the Wave reads as an epic opera, but its real success is found in the duo’s careful use of pop sensibilities. This album, while boasting a strange sound and grandiose composition, is pop-centric enough to compete with the likes of Kanye or Katy (I’ve been humming the hook from “Go Supersonic” for about a month now). I would point towards specific tracks, but the whole thing is such a smooth ride, it’s best to just go ahead and give the entire album a whirl.
To top it all off, Pepe Deluxé took the aquatic theme to the maximum level by donating all profits from the album to the John Nurminen Foundation’s Clean Baltic Sea project. Queen of the Wave is, in many ways, the ideal album. Artistic and operatic enough to indulge your serious listening streaks, but jazzy and tuneful enough to cure your pop-cravings on a relaxing day, it’s likely to stay near the top of your CD stack for quite a while.
Air – Love 2
The Flaming Lips – Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots
Broken Social Scene – Broken Social Scene
Stream: Pepe Deluxe – “Go Supersonic”