Dragon Down

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The second full-length from Swedish singer Lasse Lindh's electro-pop outfit Tribeca, Dragon Down is uncommonly ruminative for an album of synth-based pop, combining a finely tuned ear for hooks and inventive, often playful synthesizer arrangements with a mature, songwriterly sensibility in lyrical dissections of love and pain that place a definite emphasis on the latter. Right out of the gate, "La, la, la etc." belies its sturdy electro-disco groove and guardedly hopeful lyrics about the prospect of domestic happiness (opening line: "So I love you/I guess that's a good thing") with an air of restraint and weariness that's echoed in the laconic title/chorus. Even the most musically vibrant songs -- the driving "Hide Away," with its deliciously cheesy faux-Chinese riffs, and the massively buoyant dream pop single "Solitude" -- are more than a little tinged with sadness, while the understated, slow-grooving lament "The Big Hurt" slides into hammering hard techno in its final minute, as if to viscerally transfer its anguish onto the listener. The album's second half, in particular, is markedly melancholic and muted, though Lindh's indelible melodies and sweetly personable vocals, along with the supple programmed beats, help keep it from becoming unbearably bleak. The most striking moment, however, is less tormented than it is disarming, funny, and even a little sexy, albeit uneasily so: "Her Breasts Were Still Small," a strangely somber account of an early sexual experience (apparently the protagonist was 14 at the time of the events in question, which may mitigate some of the creepiness in the song's title) manages to be sweetly nostalgic and disturbing at the same time, with music -- alternately tense and dreamy -- which fits that duality perfectly.

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