Monday, 24 February 2014

Alpaca Sports - Sealed With A Kiss

Album review by andy@thesoundofconfusion.com


"Dreamy Idealist"; that's how a social network personality quiz recently chose to succinctly define this correspondent's outlook on the world he inhabits! (Away with the fairies is what I'd go for - Ed) OK yes, I accept there MIGHT be a case for saying that phrase wanders perilously close to being a euphemism for "unrealistic drifter", nonetheless I'll take it! The reason being is that, even on the greyest of days, the sunshine always resides above the clouds, and a healthy dollop of romanticism swishing around the soul is a sure-fire way to get elevated to the brightness!

Whether Andreas Jonsson is partial to playfully passing his time answering multiple choice scenarios online is, at time of publication, unknown, however anyone acquainted with his output as the songwriting centre-point of Sweden's Alpaca Sports, will already know without the aid of any test, that here is a man with a doe-eyed disposition and a heart that beats in time with the ups and downs of head-over-heels love. It's wholly apt therefore, that it should be in this month, the one given over to Cupid's arrow and affirmations of affection, that the Gothenburg group give us their debut record, a labour of love that comes, metaphorically at least, finely gift wrapped and fondly 'Sealed With A Kiss'.

Spread over ten refreshingly clipped tracks (just two exceed three minutes thirty and only barely at that!) 'Sealed With...' offers the listener the opportunity to take a peek into the diary entries of the terminally lovestruck, then immerse themselves in an emotional rollercoaster of unrequited longing; honeymoon period starry-eyed soulmate-ship; slow-burning break ups; and good old fashioned wistful what ifs. In the wrong hands it's a subject matter that could rapidly descend into self-indulgence, maudlin bemoaning or sickening soppiness, but, in Jonsson's Smiths-moulded mitts, what we instead get are slices of delectably upbeat and jangly indiepop, that's imbued with sunshine melodies and the unceasing charm of retained innocence.

Not that Jonsson can take all the glory. A raft of friends and fellow musicians have been begged and borrowed to bring his ideas to fruition, and special mention must go to long term co-conspirators Carl Jirestedt and Amanda Akerman. While the former receives credits for his role in the writing process, the latter's plaudits will arrive thanks to her pivotal role in giving the album its emotive edge; whispering angelic vocals gently in the background, Akerman dovetails beautifully with Jonsson, enabling the listener a glimpse into the twin sides of each chronicled relationship, and allowing their mood, either in times of emotional feast or famine, to come across in almost tactile fashion.

With a couple of years of preparation leading them up to this point, for those familiar with "The Alpaca's" output to date, some of the pages of this diary will already be well thumbed. Previous singles such as 'Just For Fun', 'Telephone', 'He Doesn't Even Like You' and 'I've Been Running' each claim their place in proceedings, and though whilst on many occasions a first LP littered with prior-released material can feel somewhat like being short-changed, in this instance their inclusion seems entirely appropriate. Partly this is because of the consistent lyrical theme that permeates the tracks, but more so it's testament to the fact that these are tunes that stand up handsomely to repetition, retaining their freshness effortlessly and bringing out the best in débutante recordings like the orchestral love letter that is 'You And Me', or the double-time clapping cajole of 'Will You Ever Come Back Home'. All told, new or old, what's served up is a run of songs that sit snugly side-by-side and hand in glove, coming together to form a massively rewarding sum of their parts.

It was once remarked that for the French, the idea of being in love is more important than actually experiencing love itself. On that basis, from Lille to Nice, Nantes to Nancy, they'll shortly be frolicking and fawning to shimmering indiepop from Sweden. So let's get in there first while we have the chance, eh readers? Tap into your romantic side, seduce summer out to dance, and seal it with a kiss. x






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