The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com
Tuesday, February 26, 2013 - 7
with risky sound
Swedish band creates
own vibe with'Optica'
i By ERIKA HARWOOD
For the Daily
In the three years since he
released his last full-length
album, Mark Andrew Hamilton
and reminisced Thumbtacks
on his woodsy and Glue
Canada. Life Woodpigeon
experiences like Fierce Panda
these are natu-
fillers, but Woodpigeon's latest,
Thumbtacks and Glue, manages to
exceed the average assumptions,
even if only slightly.
Thumbtacks and Glue builds
slowly and takes its time, almost
unable to garner full attention
from listeners until halfway
through the album. Even in great
attempts at creating a full sound
* in "Red Rover, Red Rover," Ham-
ilton's light vocals are lost in layers
of backing vocals and instrumen-
tation. Both "Sufferin' Suckatash"
and "Edinburgh" seem to lack a
distinct focus and struggle to keep
the interest of listeners. Songs like
these make it easy to zone out,
only to realize that one song has
ended, and the one on is halfway
Despite these occasional mis-
steps, Hamilton's instrumental
the album is notable. "Children
Should Be Seen and Not Heard"
begins with sounds of a distort-
Just hangin' with the homies.
ed electric guitar, whose sound
escapes through a tiny amp Ham-
ilton describes as both "scrappy"
and "brilliant." The sound seems
out of place, juxtaposing all
expectations for a folk album con-
ceived by a man whose work has
been likened to Sufjan Stevens's
and Simon & Garfunkel's, but
these moments of experimenta-
tion manage to give the album life
On "Little Wings," Woodpi-
geon proves that these risks have
the potential to pay off. A major-
ity of the sounds come from the
wet rims of wine glasses (is it safe
to assume this idea came from
countless viewings of "Miss Con-
geniality"?). Luckily for Woodpi-
geon, these wine glasses work a
little better for this song than they
did for Sandra Bullock in the tal-
ent competition. In addition to the
hauntingly beautiful and unique
contribution of formal glassware,
the soft backing vocals consist of
Hamilton reading a book he found
in the studio but put in reverse. In
theory, this should all sound like
an undergrad's poorly done proj-
ect on New Media art, but Wood-
pigeon approaches it in in a way
that creates one of the most allur-
ing points of the album.
Thumbtacks and Glue proves
to be worthwhile as a collective
thanks to Hamilton's willing-
ness to embark on a journey of
risk. Though the album loses
steam at points, Woodpigeon's
commitment to artistry and
experimentation is admirable,
if not impressive. In the end, the
intentions and anecdotes behind
the songs are what take the
album from dull to charismatic.
The makeshift instrumenta-
tion and sincere narratives of
Thumbtacks and Glue promote a
feeling of being at summer camp:
sitting outside with friends and
singing songs with whatever
instruments nature supplies -
assuming that nature is supply-
ing wine glasses.
By JAKE OFFENHARTZ
For the Daily
Chock it up to an abundance
of welfare programs or the all-
encompassing influence of ABBA,
but Sweden has
soil for thought-
ful, innovative Optica
indie pop. Set Shout Out
to celebrate its
10-year anni- Louds
versary with Merge
ing release of
Optica, Shout Out Louds has solidi-
fied its place among pop-veteran
Swedes like Peter Bjorn and John,
The Cardigans and The Knife.
Through a well-executed blend of
introspective lyrics and dance-pop
melodies, the band has managed to
monotonous pop music.
The self-produced Optica main-
tains the band's signature musing
lyricism and vastly expands the
pop sensibilities through heavy and
constant synthesizers that, though
present on previous albums, have
never been so dominant. But while
Optica is certainly the band's most
pop-fueled album, it's as brooding
as it is breezy, and it's far from con-
The album opens with "Sugar,"
an up-tempo anthem reminiscent
of the Cure - had Robert Smith
abandoned his excessive gloom for
buoyant subtlety. Vocalist Adam
Olenius shines onthis track, calmly
crooning, "In bright, bright sun-
light I forget where I want to be
/ And I'm growing old, still sugar
on my tongue." In many ways this
rack previews the entire your own, it's been covered / It's
with lyrics both nostalgic been chartered so many times," it
gretful accompanied by an seems as though he's is wrestling
:hedly1980sbass line. with the album's driving question:
e Ice," the album's third How can a band emulate a bygone
and pre-released single, era of synth-pop while remaining
through a contemplative bal- authentic and fresh?
ile showing off an impressive The second half of Optica finds
arrangement. Unfortunately, an answer to this question, creating
ng offers little else and will a mood both familiar and bizarre.
mark the point where some It's an album that makes you feel
rs begin to question Shout like you're sitting in a convertible en
ouds's depth. With repeti- route to a roller rink 25 years ago -
rics about the blueness of glamorous and viscerally pleasing
ae mightwrite off the entire in a wayrthat distracts from its dark
as overindulgent, more con- lyrical undertones. But Optica is far
withrevisitingatiredsound more than a collection of catchy
king a chance on something instrumentation, and it's Olenius's
nly three songs in, it's tempt- wistful vocals that provide a pru-
ompare this album to its last, dent anchor alongside a parade of
which many regarded as safe synthetic melodies.
creative. But Optica rewards The calculated result is a sur-
e, and the album's midsec- real blend of stoic wit and Duran
uickly dispels any worries Duran's joyriding entertainment.
e effort lacks innovation. But as odd a concept as it seems,
Shout Out Louds is never over the
top, and the band's wallflower
Shout Out personality keeps the grand ges-
tures from becoming too pomp-
)uds adds to ous
The intersection of rock and
eden's indie- dance pop is a strange one, filled
with artists struggling to find a
o catalog balance between the aesthetic and
the emotional. There are multiple
moments when Shout Out Louds
locates this highly sought-after
sediately following are "14th equilibrium, and the result is
" and "Burn": Both are foot- invigorating. Though the album
, genre-bending accom- falters at times, Optica is the band's
ents. Track six, "Walking most mature record to date. In a
r Footsteps" represents a decade saturated with indie pop,
g point for the album - as Optica continues to demonstrate
sod lifts, the pace quickens Shout Out Louds' uncanny abil-
identity is reached. When ity to create a refreshing sound by
s sings, "This road is not bridging the old and the new.
AT A CROSSROADS?
THE UNIVERSITY OF CHICAGO
SUMMER SESSION '13
If you're a standout,
you'll fit right in.
Don't just communicate ideas-experience them.
Don't memorize a foreign language-think in one.
Don't study the ruins-excavate them.
Don't analyze dreams-live them.
This is the very essence of the University of Chicago
Summer Session. Where students are engaged at every
level-intellectually, socially, personally, and
professionally. Where you can benefit from the value of
taking university courses in an accelerated, intensive
format. Join us this summer for an extraordinary learning
experience at the academic home to 85 Nobel laureates.
For students in high school, college, and beyond.
June 24-August 30, 2013, 3, 4, 5, and 6-week sessions.
Round trip buses to and from The Union