Friday, March 27, 2009

redlinespotting by örnsberg

Due to draconian social convention, I am forced to work for a living rather than sit on my butt all day writing five-minute essays about whatever music captures my fancy. It's probably worse for musicians who are forced to work a day job, sometimes two, simply so they can make the music they love, and maybe, just maybe, have enough money left over to buy that fancy effects pedal.

Örnsberg (a.k.a. Johan Ragnarsson) understands the plight of the working man. With a project named for a metro stop on his daily commute, his debut album Redlinespotting (out in April) perfectly captures that chilly morning reluctance to leave the house and plunge forward into anything resembling a daily routine. This is the sound of love, of a man plunging forward into a different sort of work for the heck of it, burying his longing to transcend the ordinary with songs like "Arlanda," "Away Away," and "Every City" -- the beat-heavy tale of a broken hearts and drugs in both Stockholm and Amsterdam. Thematically, it's more than enough to open up a few emotional scars for listeners suffering from chronic wanderlust...but gosh darn it if it isn't charming. (Hey look! We found the record label title!)

Of course, sheer determination isn't enough to transcend daily existence. (Although an iPod with the volume limiter turned off is a good start.) Underneath the low-fi beats and off-kilter vocals, Ragnarsson demonstrates a distinct understanding of basic pop structure. It's a bit like listening to New Order demos, without, you know, all the suicidal impulses. One of my favorite qualities of Swedish indie-pop (or any music really) is that unquantifiable sense of levity mixed with nostalgia -- a quality Örnsberg has in spades. While the beats occasionally feel a bit forced ("Put Your Hands Up For Örnsberg" feels like a remix away from a bonafide hit) the good far supersede the faults.

The tone of Redlinespotting is best summed up on stand-out track "Weekend Lights" where Swedish indie-pop royalty Magnus Carlson (of the Weeping Willows) shares a guest spot along side actual samples of the Swedish metro. Yes, there's a whiff of the melancholy to the plight of the working man. But sometimes, we don't have to work so hard to supersede our emotional entropy. Sometimes, as Ragnarsson surely would be quick to point out, working day catharsis is as close as a stolen moment alone with one's headphones. 

mp3: "Every City" by Örnsberg

No comments: