With eight members, three of them female, we might want to start calling them Architecture in Stockholm. The Concretes are back and In Colour on their second proper full-length album (not counting the two compilations, one of EPs and one of B-sides). In Colour is chock full of pop melody and a few special guest stars including the Magic Numbers’ Romeo and Michelle Stodart, Swedish indie popster of the moment Jens Lekman, and providing pedal steel while also producing, Nebraska’s own Mike Mogis. These guest stars should act as some kind of lodestone for the sound of this new Concretes record. Whereas the debut has been described as `Motown meets Velvets,’ this new effort is a little more accessible while also interesting, psychedelic while fun, and worldly while quintessentially Swedish pop.
Having Jens Lekman sing background vocals makes some kind of sense. Even having members of the Magic Numbers appear on the new record is understandable given the similarity in sound and the tour the two bands spent together. Another guest, Frida Hyvönen, is an up and coming Swedish artist who is on the Concretes’ home label and is also praised by Nina Persson. But Mike Mogis? How did that happen? The man mostly known for producing Bright Eyes and a host of other Saddle Creek and friends bands helms the production for In Colour and I’m still trying to wrap my head around it. Songs like “Grey Days” with its country violins and guitar picking do definitely show Mogis’ influence, but would anyone have pegged him for a Swedish pop record? I don’t know, but the result is a nice change of pace from what could have easily been a repeat performance of the band’s self-titled debut. Instead, we are treated to a mixed bag of pop style that is sure to piss off most of the band’s snobbier fans, yet is also more accomplished.
At times borrowing from countrymates Abba, the Cardigans and Stina Nordenstam and at others from the Carpenters, the Band, and the Cowboy Junkies, In Colour benefits from expansion. Victoria Bergsman’s voice is still as smooth as Aquavit, but this time around her voice supports music that is a little less dreary and a little more Belle & Sebastian. “Ooh La La” is the finest example of the change in style as everything is a little sunnier and a lot more upbeat. Romeo Stodart performs a fine duet with the `Cretes on “Your Call,” a song about a breakup that might remind some of the song that made the band a household staple, “Say Something New.” Yes, that’s the song on all the Target ads. Before you get all anti-corporate nutty, the song paid for their publishing and they are giving some money to Corporate Watch. That’s right, the Concretes are responsible indie artists! In Colour is the perfect title for this sophomore release as it seems to sparkle with a little more energy than its predecessor.
I am reminded of the time when I went to get my tattoo. In order to get the tat I wanted, I had to bring in a coloring book page for them to photocopy. (My tattoo is of Ernie from Sesame Street in case you were wondering). The outline was done first with black ink, the artist delicately tracing the purple lines made with the mimeograph machine transfer as my friends looked on from the parlor’s lobby. A month later I went back for the color, and instead of sitting in the lobby, I was shunted to a back room. As the artist ground the color into my flesh, I realized why I had been isolated, to drown out my screams of pain. How does this relate to the Concretes? Most hardcore indie fans, traditionalists similar to those who like the black ink only tattoos, would prefer the original to the flashy, finding pain in the growth process. But for me, I prefer just a little bit more color.