Love Is All – A Hundred Things Keep Me Up at Night (2008)
As I look back upon the numerous aspects of Love Is All’s outstanding debut, Nine Times That Same Song, that caused me to consistently check up on the group’s progress of their second album every few months or so, I now realize that their release was one of the handful of debuts released every few years that fused extreme innovation and successful melodic accessibility to create a stylistically flawless collection of songs that were ceaselessly engaging with plenty of attitude. Unless it is erroneously mimicking a previous genre with minimal creativity involved, though, it would be difficult to call an artist’s stylistic preference flawed because it still remains as the artist’s own personalized intent. With that in mind, Love Is All’s contagious formula of punk-tinged guitar progressions, devilishly triumphant uses of brass, and intricately bustling rhythm sections was so ingeniously engineered on Nine Times That Same Song that it would be a crime to call the result even slightly derived; it simply did not fit in with either stereotypical Swedish indie-rock or western derivatives of punk music. Instead, the Swedish five-piece crafted a sound of their own that proved as successful as the plethora of hooks in their songs. As a result, you can probably imagine how gruesome it was for fans to wait three years for a follow-up.
With Love Is All’s topical consistencies in mind, A Hundred Things Keep Me Up at Night is a rather appropriate title for their long-awaited second album. As their band name suggests, Love Is All’s lyrical disposition often revolves around the topic of love, just like millions of other bands. The difference with them, though, is that they often put a spin on it that is humorous and wildly ironic, whether they are alluding to a physical being or mental sentiment truly “keeping them up” at night (with the quoted, again, referring possibly to either a sexually suggestive or mental state). Yeah, if you look deeply enough on A Hundred Things Keep Me Up at Night, the witticisms are there and reliably involved just like their first album. Their stylistic leanings remain similarly consistent as well, making no transitional subtleties from Nine Times That Same Song either. Despite any sharp contrasts though, the songs remain fresh, innovative, and consistently appealing; these lyrical, stylistic, and cumulative aspects are all complementary aspects that inform listeners definitively of the group’s implementation of the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” ideology. Rather importantly, this indication remains applicable on A Hundred Things Keep Me Up at Night in appliance to Josephine Olausson’s vocals; she maintains the same mixture of gleeful yelps and fastidiously passionate displays of emotion of that made her vocal performance on Nine Times That Same Song so vitally contributive toward the release’s overall success.
In addition to maintaining the aspects of lyrical and melodic excellence that made Love Is All’s debut so memorable, A Hundred Things Keep Me Up at Night also manages to involve the same theme of variety within the group’s personalized stylistic realm that Nine Times That Same Song executed so well, whether it was on initially subdued bass-led buildups like “Felt Tip” or immediately excitable brass-led stomps in the vein of “Busy Doing Nothing”. On A Hundred Things Keep Me Up at Night, “A More Uncertain Future” is somewhat parallel to “Felt Tip”. Olausson begins the track in a subdued manner when compared to the other brisker tracks, backed nearly exclusively by an expanding rhythm section as the slight overtone of an electric guitar gradually takes over prior to the emergence of keys. Olausson and Nicholaus Sparding both sing quite equally on the track, with the format being representative of a crumbling relationship as each vocalist relays the perspective of each significant other. Just like on “Felt Tip”, Sparding eventually takes over as vocalist to complement Olausson’s previous sentiments, only this time he takes on a larger role as he emerges after each verse. “Blessed, I don’t want to argue, I just can’t sustain – god – this constant itching brain,” he replies, shortly followed up by Olausson with, “I put all your things in boxes, I placed them in the attic, I know it might seem plastic but it surely felt fantastic.”
Despite the entirety of “A More Uncertain Future” being immensely enjoyable, the best moment of the track occurs during the final minute where both vocalists correspond to one another every few seconds or so as a twinkling key progression contrasts their building frustration with one another in exuberant form. “We don’t need each other anymore,” they both take turns singing, symbolizing the bittersweet end of a tragic romance. It serves as one of the finest moments and the album, and certainly my personal favorite. In a more excitable vein, the rush of guitars and heavy bass on “Movie Romance” reminisces their punk leanings to a larger extent with an explosive chorus in which Olausson and Sparding turn up their harmonizing abilities once again. “Last Choice” and “Wishing Well” feature choruses with a large emphasis on twinkling keys, and verses that see little more than a steady bass line and Olausson’s fervent vocals overlap for an effect that many fans of Nine Times That Same Song should find familiarly invigorating. The last track, “Floors”, is one of the sharpest tracks on the album due to an irresistible rhythm section that makes a seamless transition into an anthemic chorus of sorts that later collapses completely to revert back to the swift bass line and heavily set percussion. As far as closers go, it manages to wrap up the album nicely with two contrasting brass solos that summarize the group’s high level of musicianship quite excellently.
“Sea Sick” is unique for the percussion during its chorus, in which claps and pounding percussion excel over the crooning of brass and Olausson’s familiarized yelps. The experimented screeching of a brass during the track’s conclusion over a key progression also adds to the song’s unique qualities, beckoning the highly original sentiments of their previous album. Though I found Nine Times That Same Song to encompass more variation of this type with its ingenious structures and flourishes of key changes that, consequently, brought forth more rewarding hooks, A Hundred Things Keep Me Up at Night is a fantastic follow-up to a debut that would be immensely difficult to improve upon. The chorus in a track like “Wishing Well” and the lack of structural variation in “Give it Back” may be too linear for many fans of the first album due to repetitiveness and a prevalent inability to take advantage of initial fresh ideas, but the bulk of A Hundred Things Keep Me Up at Night does manage to capitalize on the same complementary attributes that made Nine Times That Same Song one of the best debuts of the past several years to create another winning album that should remind listeners of Love Is All’s powerfully impressive ability. Still, in the midst of hectic domestic competition, their newest album once again proves that Love Is All is still one of the best things to come out of Sweden this decade. 8/10