Saturday 2 April 2011

Those Dancing Days - Daydreams And Nightmares

Look Who's Come Waltzing Back

Does anyone else ever get the feeling that album titles are plucked from thin air, tagged on as a last minute after thought? It’s not hard to picture the scene; the rest of the band are already living it up down the pub and as the triangle player packs up his gear, and puts on his leather jacket, it dawns on him that they’ve forgotten to give their new batch of recordings a suitable moniker. With the studio security guard stood jangling his keys at the door and looking tetchy, our hero takes an executive decision: ‘sod it, we’ll just call it Clam Buffet Blues’.

In the case however of ‘Daydreams and Nightmares’, the second album from Stockholm ladies Those Dancing Days, the name they’ve plumped for is extremely apt. The dichotomy in the title runs right through the record, it’s equal parts light and dark, both hard and soft. Stick this on when the sun is on your back and it’s an up-tempo, warm and exuberant collection, but later when the sky gets dark it transforms into something fretful, pensive and even at points aggressive - but it’s precisely this oscillation in mood that makes it such a good album.

So how does it shape up stylistically? It’s been two and half years since the release of ‘In Our Space Here Suits’, their debut long player, and given the tender age at which these girls first surfaced, it’s fair to assume that a great deal of living and learning has taken place in the time that’s passed. Thankfully, any new experiences they’ve been exposed to haven’t led to them trying to re-invent their wheel – this is no dubstep odyssey. The changes that have taken place are far more subtle.

The bass is high in the mix and the drums have a snap to them, which when coupled with the chiming echoes of the guitar and keyboards produces a post-punk vibe. Indeed throughout the 12 tracks there are several nods to the early 80’s and the work of The Cure, The Chameleons and even Adam and the Ants. The northern soul rhythms Those Dancing Days first became recognised for are still evident though, in particular on the excellent ‘Keep Me In Your Pocket’, and they still know how to knock out a fine pop chorus, most notably on ‘Can’t Find Entrance’ and recent single ‘I’ll Be Yours’ (shamefully pipped to Obligatory Record Of The Week by The Vaccines, what were you thinking Kev!)

As well as beefing up their sound, If you listen closely you can hear that the youthful exuberance of ’...Space Hero Suits’ has been tempered a touch, but rather than detracting from the record it gives it more clarity. The coloured crayons they were scribbling with on the first release are still evident but now they’ve learnt how to draw between the lines. There’s a refinement and focus to this LP that suggests this is a band who have a very clear idea of how they want to sound and the confidence to make it happen.

Lyrically it flits between endearing romantic innocence and wistful regret and, as with ‘Hitten’ on the first album, it’s in the more reflective and fragile moments that ‘Daydreams..’ really excels, in particular the lovely modern day torch song that is ‘When We Fade Away’, Linnea Jonsson’s vocals oozing soul and longing. Don’t be fooled though she won’t stand any messing either, declaring on opener ‘Reaching Forward':

I believe in so much more than just being nice and saying alright, I deserve to be this good, don’t you bring me down

And I wouldn’t dream of doing that because simply there’s not a bad track on this LP. The first quarter of the year has already thrown up some very good releases but this is right up there with any of them and could be a genuine album of the year contender. At under a fiver on ITunes it has got to be worth taking a punt on.

Well done ladies, long may your days of dancing continue, you can sleep soundly from now on.

Download an album track free from Those Dancing Days website here

Buy the album.

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