Swedish pop better than the ABBA comeback
Feat. Oberhofer, Tirzah, Smile, MOTHERMARY and Hyd
Welcome to the Unskippables, where we practice extreme discipline by avoiding a Certified Lover Boy pun in the title!
On a personal note (though I guess this is all personal?) I also have a song that came out this week that I produced and co-wrote with Michelle Rose. It’s half “Olivia Rodrigo for adults” and half “What if Le Tigre hung out at the mall?” and I’m very proud of it. You can check it here.
Not your vibe? Then read this excellent article on why reading SPIN now doesn’t really feel at all like reading SPIN, or Mark Richardson’s beautiful ode to the Microphone’s The Glow Pt. 2, which turns 20 this week.
THE UNSKIPPABLES #6
Smile feat. Freja The Dragon - Eon
Despite my love of ABBA, all of their “comeback” music fell super flat - even their schmaltziest 70’s fare had spot-on melodies and arrangements, and their new tracks feel heavy-handed and sluggish.
However, do not fret! If Swedish pop perfection is what you crave, Smile deliver - it’s the duo of Bjorn Yttling (Peter Bjorn and John) and Joakim Åhlund (Teddybears), with a guest vocal from Freja the Dragon, returning with their first album in nine years. “Eon” is sharp, a little melancholy, and crystalline, like the Eurovision-conquering ABBA of yore - the Nordic pop nugget you deserve going into fall.
Oberhofer - Let It Go
The chorus of this song hits the same pleasure center in my brain as the OHHH in "Unbelievable” by EMF, a looping rollercoaster peak in the middle of this strutting psychedelic pop track from Oberhofer’s upcoming album Smothered. Lollipop piano and distorted snare rolls give the song a charming yet woozy confidence, like a day drunk walk to the subway. Unbelievable!
Hyd - No Shadow
Part of QT with SOPHIE, AG Cook and Harriet Pitard, artist Hayden Dunham’s first solo track keeps inverting expectations, always going smaller when a more obvious pop song would go huge. The “reverse drop” at 0:18, a drumless prechorus and crackling hi hats provide thrilling sonics to anchor her dramatic vocal layers and a closing distorted guitar/vocal/synth(?) solo.
MOTHERMARY - Like A Virgin
This is off the hit-or-miss Italians Do It Better Madonna compilation - but this take on “Like A Virgin” from Brooklyn, NY twin duo MOTHERMARY is all 80’s sex scene soft light and steam.
Tirzah feat. Coby Sey - Hive Mind
The latest from Tirzah is the closest to the whispery R&B pocket of her 2013-2015 EPs that I really loved. Co-written by Mica Levi, a slight keyboard line provides the bare minimum scaffolding for Tirzah and Coby Sey to build a sultry duet. It doesn’t expand much beyond their vocal interplay and minimal backing, but there’s a tension that makes the song feel emotionally larger than songs with far more parts.
Anthony Phillips - God If I Saw Her Now
Phil Collins and Peter Gabriel get all the airtime for Genesis solo projects, but original Genesis lead guitarist Anthony Phillips dropped this deeply sad solo track in 1977. It hits the same emotional note as “Thirteen” by Big Star, or any number of grey-tinged Belle & Sebastian tracks. The flute and multitracked guitar bridge slightly gives his prog roots away, but I was surprised at how hard this forgotten Genesis solo track about remembering a first love hit the heartstrings.
That’s all for this week! See you next Friday!