You know, between Yeasayer’s new album Odd Blood, and Shout Out Louds new one, Work(Merge Records), I may finally be taking a liking to this new-fangled music. Both bands have pop smarts to burn, and the talent to place their songs in interesting and inviting settings.
Work is the third album for Shout Out Louds, who hail from Sweden. Their second, Our Ill Wills, brought them a lot of attention worldwide. When the touring was over, the band decided they needed a break, and some time apart. A couple of members remained home in Stockholm, while others traveled to such far-flung locations as Melbourne, and Los Angeles. In Australia, singer and songwriter Adam Olenius wrote new songs and recorded them on his laptop, armed only with a synthesizer, an acoustic guitar, and Garage Band, before sharing them with the other band members in their own corners of the world.
While Our Ill Wills had been an album about travel, the new songs made it clear that the new album would be about coming home again, ironic given that the album was written in Australia and recorded in Seattle. Shout Out Louds enlisted Seattle resident Phil Ek to produce. Ek is well known for his work with Fleet Foxes, Band of Horses, and the Shins. A decision was made to strip the sound down by losing the strings and percussion that had characterized the band’s last album.
It’s fine to trust the songs if you’ve got songs that merit that trust, and Shout Out Louds have got that in spades on the new album. Olenius says that he is in a better place in his life, and there is no doubt that the darkness of his earlier songs has lifted to some extent. That’s not to say that the new songs don’t have substance, just that they are simpler, more organic and upbeat. Ek has done a fine job by presenting the band just as they are, with a minimum of overdubs or studio trickery. Strong melodies, spare guitar textures, and propulsive drumming predominate as featured on songs like “Walls”.
Work is an album without a bad track. What it lacks in jagged edges and jarring sounds, it makes up for with great energy and a flawless flow from track to track. I didn’t know what to expect from Shout Out Louds this time around. What they have delivered is their best album thus far, and another early leader in the race for year-end honors.