What about life beyond the buzz? The aftermath of the hype? The way back into normality? It looks like each and everyone of all these once hyped ‘Middle of the 00s’ indie-rock bands found a different way for themselves. Swedish band SHOUT OUT LOUDS and their energetic and sweet pop melodies were one of the better representatives of these glory days when ‘independent music’ actually mend something. They’ve never gotten as big as their fellow countrymen MANDO DIAO (who’ve been also going through an identity crises lately) or as commercially successful as their British colleques EDITORS or BLOC PARTY. But every band needed to find their own right to exist in a musical world where the scene is dead and the hype is over. Some bands like MAXIMO PARK never accepted the fact, others are already gone (anyone heard about the KAISER CHIEFS lately?) or became irrelevant (insert group of choice here). So many options.
SHOUT OUT LOUDS decided to go away for a while – just to now return after three years of silence with a really well done fourth longplayer that goes by the name Optica. The rough lo-fi attitude of their early days is as much forgotten as the mediocre 2010 longplayer Work who was okay but also felt a bit like the Scandinavians were running out of ideas. Adam Olenius and his band take a slightly different approach on Optica. They combine their ability to create enjoyable pop moments with a stronger than ever dedication to the slick playforms of 80s wave and grand gestures. It’s a bit like the logical continuation of their sophomore album Our Ill Wills. It’s pop music, very good one. Neither rough, nor lo-fi – it adds new elements to a well-known formular. “Now I know what I’ve been searching for” sings Olenius in the slightly psychedelic opener Sugar and it almost feels like the new credo of the group. After three records the band seems to finally found a sound that defines them perfectly. It’s the smooth and sweet wave pop of tracks like Illusions or Walking In Your Footsteps that instantly captivates the listener.
And it are these tender midtempo moments like the piano-driven Blue Ice or Circles that includes almost too much SMITHS references. And it’s the power of an instant hit like the pumping 14th of July or the euphoric and percussion driven Chasing The Sinking Sun. Simple and effective and really hard to resist if you have at least a bit of pop affinity in your bones. But it’s of course not as simple as expected. What SHOUT OUT LOUDS also defines is their love for melancholia with each and every note. It can especially be found in Olenius’ voice, but also in the one of Bebban Stenborg who – once again – marks the decent counterpart of her colleque. And it’s nice having her taking lead vocals in Hermilla – in combination with the new dark synthie-pop undertone a win-win situation for the record. Weaker moments like Where You Come In are already forgotten by then.
Optica feels new and familiar. If you’ve already been a SHOUT OUT LOUDS fan all along the way, you will love this again. If you got lost along this way during the past years, than you might even return. And we don’t need to mention new followers. It’s probably the group’s most coherent record so far. “A change is always good” sings Olenius in the record’s final tune Destroy. Deconstruct your habits and rebuild something new out of it. It’s really satisfying to see that these old friends took that way and prove that there is a better life after the hype.
You can stream the entire album over at NPR.