Sailing the Pacific!
One Jens Lekman lyric that remains so humorously memorable to me was a line on “The Cold Swedish Winter” which remarked that many people have assumed his native Sweden to consist of nothing but “porn and gonorrhea”. Regardless of how accurate it may have appeared though, it is inarguable that many western music fans have formed a new perception of the small Northern European country over the past decade or so, mainly due to the astonishing number of new artists from the country who are generating quality material by the hundreds. I have spoken about my high regard for the Swedish music scene already, so I will not bother going into further depth regarding it. However, with the plethora of conventional Swedish indie-pop that has been featured here by the likes of Håkan Hellström, Pelle Carlberg, and Salem Al Fakir, what I and many other people have somewhat forgotten are a few other genres that are being shamefully neglected by listeners seeking out the “next big thing” from Sweden. Synth-pop has been a revered genre in Sweden since its global emergence in the ‘80s, with the Swedish group Page being the first to bring electronic pop music to the country during the same period. What has followed them has been a variety of underrated acts operating in the same vein who have been overlooked by seemingly everyone apart from the respective scene. However, with the likes of Sally Shapiro, Private, and The Legends bringing a modern touch to Swedish synth-pop, it has opened up expectations for a new contemporary edge on electronica from a country that has already made irresistible pop hooks a standard in their music.
Another Swedish electro-pop group who appears imminent to break out is Pacific!, a duo comprised of Danny and Bjorn, two 35-year-olds from Gothenburg who have known each other since the age of 7. They take their influences from both their Swedish and international counterparts, incorporating an infectious display of nostalgically romantic synth-pop with contemporary interpretations of funk and disco. Sound familiar? If the French duo Air came to mind, it would make sense. “We were definitely influenced by the whole French contingent,” Danny said. “We love their music and vibe.” They also reference the brilliant pop harmonies of the Beach Boys and other forms of West Coast psychedelia as being defining influences, an aspect that may be best heard in the “woo hoo”-ing backing vocals of the irresistible “Sunet Blvd”. Their name choice derives from the duo’s admiration for the South Pacific and Asia, specifically Japan, a country that Pacific! appears indebted to for their “small but very dedicated” following. Audiences did not have much material from Pacific! apart from three 12″ EPs until recently, when they released their debut album Reveries. It proves that Pacific has the potential to be much more than simply a great singles band. With 5 tracks emitting a glowing form of quality within a genre whose formula still maintains a certain sort of freshness and mystique, Reveries is definitely worth the look.
“Sunset Blvd” is one of the several tracks from Reveries that has already garnered some substantial buzz. A prime example of the group’s seductive synth-pop flair, it is guided by a collaboration of synthesized chords, twinkling bells, and a bass line reminiscent of ‘70s funk. The nostalgic quality it emits can be attributed to both the melodic content and the vocal usage throughout, an aspect that varies between the reverbed appeal of the lead vocals and a series of surf-y backing vocals that appear to signal the re-entry of the sparkling chorus alongside the thumping bass line and backing percussion. There are plenty of reasons why I believe that “Sunset Blvd” will be one of the most popular tracks this summer among dance-pop niches, but the primary one is simply the infectiousness that this talented duo is able to deliver in such simplistically charming form. The track holds little structural variation within itself, which is only indication that Danny and Bjorn’s inherent knowledge that the initial melody is strong enough to carry the track on its own. The chorus simply builds upon the initial chord-based melody with the ample twinkles of keys and thrust of rhythm, leaving the listener’s joints in a state of lovable anticipation as their memory becomes diluted into consisting substantially of the melody. Pacific’s implementation of both funk and dance is heavily prevalent and it resounds with absolute success on the nearly flawless “Sunset Blvd”, a track that should jump the duo into international stardom.
Another highlight on Reveries is the more subdued “Break Your Social Tension”. This one drifts placidly under the haze of bass and airy synth, rapid percussion, the gentle murmur of a guitar, and plucked strings, providing a serenely invigorating form of synth-pop. “Can’t you see you’re not the only one,” they sing delicately under the whirring of a synth pad during the chorus. The loop of the initial plucked string progression is then repeated for emphasis as a slick guitar riff begins to concludes the song, once again halted by a synthesized bass as it gradually concedes into silence. I am also a fan of “Sunrise”, a track that serves as the most beautifully tranquil on the album. The vocals remind me of Wayne Coyne, a comparison that makes the orchestral touch on their serene rush of electronic pop even more satisfying. Their western influences are really on full display here and it is one of the most subtly impressive examples of a beautifully woven electronic pop track I have heard in quite some time. Not to leave out “Sunset Blvd” though, as I seeing it as being a wildly successful single by the end of the year. Reveries is currently available to import and it is highly recommended for fans of synth-pop with an enjoyably futuristic touch.
- Al Fakir
- electronic pop
- Jens Lekman
- pop hooks
- salem al fakir
- Sally Shapiro
- Wayne Coyne