Sunday, April 27, 2008

from the valley to the stars by el perro del mar

Around CWBH Headquarters, I'm known as the would-be hipster without a soul. I like my music loud and angry and fueled by a rhythm section that wants very badly to play lead. As a general rule, I don't do poetry, I don't do girly singers, and I don't do church organs. Which is why I'm not entirely sure how the new El Perro del Mar album made it to my desk to be reviewed1.

From the Valley to the Stars was written in the wake of the loss of a loved one, and its tone varies from the very deeply melancholy to the occasionally joyful, with plenty of vague religious imagery sprinkled throughout, mirrored in the angelic album art. Like El Perro del Mar's self-titled debut, it's full minor chords and girl-group horn arrangements. All of which is generally quite pleasant.

However. From the Valley is one of the most lyrically repetitive albums I've heard in quite some time. It's not that it's thematic and an idea is revisited throughout the album, but lines are repeated throughout a song. The lyrics to "You Can't Steal a Gift"2 for example, consist of the song title itself and the phrase you, you, you just can't hide away repeated for two and a half minutes. That wouldn't be so bad, as occasionally you need songs like that (although usually these songs are anthemic and good to scream along in your car). But the track that follows, "How Did We Forget" starts with two minutes of it's easy babe delivered in the same pouting, depressed voice. There's a lovely instrumental track to break things up ("Inside the Golden Egg"), then a couple minutes of there's still time to start off the next track. And so on and so on and so on....

I am, however, a big fan of Sarah Assbring's tendency to sing the most chipper lyrics in her downtrodden, on-my-way-to-throw-myself-in-front-of-a-train voice. ("Happiness Won Me Over" sounds like a funeral dirge.) The music itself is pleasantly produced with subtle instrumentation and interesting melodies. It just happens to be bogged down a bit by somewhat lackluster lyrics. We'll chalk it up to a sophomore slump and emotional strain, and hope for better next time.

1. Especially as she's Swedish, and our Swedish correspondent LMS usually leaps upon Scandinavian releases. Note from LMS: I Fail.
2. Actually, I'm pretty sure you can. Just sayin'.

mp3: "Glory to the World" by El Perro Del Mar
mp3: "Dog (live)" by El Perro Del Mar

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