Thursday, April 3, 2008

the last tycoon by peter morén

It’s hard to avoid blushing while listening to Peter Morén's debut solo album the Last Tycoon (out April 8th). While musically dissimilar, it can be easily grouped with Jens Lekman – the sort of music that begs you to fall madly in love with its creator, or failing that, to experience some intense puppy love for a while (in the case of The Last Tycoon, 40 minutes 57 seconds to be exact.)

Before we go any further into discussing the specifics of why Mr. Morén makes me blush,1 let’s address the lead-man-solo-outing-elephant in the room– yes it does sound a bit like a Peter, Bjorn and John. With his name taking up 1/3 of the band name, this is to be expected. However, unlike other lead man forays into the solo world – Darkel comes immediately to mind – the Last Tycoon avoids the trap of sounding like it's missing half of said lead man’s "day job" band.

If anything, instrumentation is more varied here than a traditional PB&J outing. The Last Tycoon is a place where harmonicas, acoustic guitars, pianos, string quartets, and hand claps all get their day in the sun...and oh that a vibraphone on "Missing Link"? Remember what I said about puppy love? In all, the whole album's instrumentation, from the tin can acoustics on the opening of "Old Love" to the delicate finger picking and plunking piano on "Tell Me In Time" could easily be the result of an imaginary meeting between Peter and Jon Brion where suddenly, over a well-aged Merlot and amidst conversations about scoring I Heart Huckabees, Peter realizes the whistled sampling on "Young Folks" just wasn't taking things far enough...

Then there's the lyrical side to the equation. Don't worry, my therapist and I are working though why at the first sign of musical self-depreciation I'm willing to offer undying love and/or pie. In the meantime though, it appears Peter is trying for a top spot in my geek army (as opposed to the Swedish armed services - a struggle to avoid as documented in "Reel to Real") on one of the album's many centerpieces2, "Twisted" when he sings, in a tone which suggests a note to self, Don’t over rate yourself / You could have been someone else / That you got such a large part in / This is pure coincidence. Then of course there's the current single "Social Competence," a song that - back in January - I declared was the new WBH theme song. After spending some time with the lyrics, I'll have to upgrade that from "theme song" to anthem. A whole song devoted to an inability to deal with small talk including the utterly appropriate line, There’s not enough air in here / to conceal / that you just want to hear your voice / make that noise. Well, to anyone who's managed to get though a Would-Be Hipster review, we thank you. Here, have an ear-worm mp3 to celebrate.

1. Once again
revealing more about me than him...
2. One could argue about the stupidity of using the word "centerpieces" in an album this consistantly good.

mp3: "Social Competence" by Peter Morén

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