After the hugely successful collaboration between Swedish pop sensation Robyn and Andreas Kleerup that resulted in "With Every Heartbeat," US electronica label Astralwerks nabbed him up for a release in the states. While I think this music would make a huge impression in the states, the album was released without much notice. Kleerup chose his talent wisely, working not only with Robyn but with indie dear Lykke Li, Neneh and Eagle-Eye Cherry's sister Titiyo, Marit Bergman, and Linda Sundblad. The effect is 55 minutes that are just teeming with talent.
Perfect Soundtrack Material
Keeping the flow at a slow boil, the album swaggers and saunters through the catchiest sounds of electronica, providing less a night out on the town and more a drive through the countryside. While the vocals are definitely best to sing out to, they aren't the highlight of the album. That's what makes Kleerup's self-titled US debut such a pleasant listen. The instrumental tracks are wonderful on their own and the album, like any good soundtrack, helps highlight moments during their time in your mind. A sunny day can be made sunnier with the uplifting melodies of "On My Own Again," while the chugging beat and morose synthwork of "Iris" can accompany a good bawl-your-eyes out moment or walk through a rainy night. Robyn helps break your heart with her vulnerable performance on "With Every Heartbeat," where the breathiness of Titiyo's voice, coupled with the simple beats and melody, seem hopeful, like overcoming an immense sadness or loss. "Hero" also feels very hopeful, but far more upbeat. Marit Bergman sings about the inability to sleep due to heartache in "3am," but to me the music seems to imply that she just spent too much time partying. For some reason this track makes me think of that 80s cult favorite Labyrinth.
Great Melodies Make Great Music
Kleerup has a deft knack with melody, swirling notes and chords around his music like a conductor, each note purposeful and pointed. In tracks like "Until We Bleed" and "I Just Want To Make That Sad Boy Smile," the instrumentation swells and rises in all the right places, not just being something to listen to but if you really hear it, it can make you feel. Lykke Li really uses Kleerup's subtle yet commanding production like a mantle she hangs upon her shoulders. The beats and melodies wrap around her voice, cushioning it. "I Just Want To Make That Sad Boy Smile" sounds like a stripped mirror of "Hero," the former being the ending track while the latter opens the album. "History," with Swedish singer Linda Sundblad, is another track that succeeds at this, although I think this is due more to her vocals - which strangely sound like Robyn both in range and inflection. Using the melody properly is attempted in "Tower of Trellick" but ultimately falls short, the track being more memorable in the opening notes than in the rest of the track due to the beats.
Go With What Works
The self-titled album really succeeds best where it tries the least, and I think the reflection of this is tracks like "Ain't No Stopping," "Misery," and "The End" sound tacky and out of place. While they are all interesting and perhaps enjoyable, I find that the trendy beats and progression of the tracks really counter the work Kleerup had done in previous efforts. But I don't think there are failures in life, only lessons to be learned. From these tracks, I hope the lesson of cohesion is gleaned and carried out on future releases.
As Prince Said, "Controversy!"
Finally, it is interesting to note, as many others have done before,
that the track “Thank You For Nothing” sounds a mite bit similar to a
cut off Cyndi Lauper’s Bring Ya To The Brink album. “Lay Me Down,”
Lauper’s track produced by Kleerup, and “Thank You For Nothing” are
the same track, with a few minor changes. Kleerup’s version features
minimal vocals, just the title sung listlessly, as if giving up hope.
There may be something to that, as it seems Ms. Lauper denied use of
her version on Kleerup’s album. Sources make things a little muddy,
but regardless, Kleerup’s version is an enjoyable listen.
Kleerup's debut was a necessary one. Not only did it help carry the
wave of Robyn further than I think she could have done on her own, it
also serves as an important release in terms of mainstream
accessibility to modern electronic music without resorting to
shout-out lyrics or hip-hop leanings. While it definitely has it's
down sides, I think the pros outweigh the cons. I will be eagerly
anticipating new material from Kleerup, to see if he has grown.
Released June 2009 on Astralwerks/Caroline Records.