With a voice that wavers between Jane Birkin's and Neil Young's, Swede Sarah Assbring, or El Perro del Mar as she calls herself, writes of hope and loneliness, sometimes at the same time. Cleary influenced by Burt Bacharach and Phil Spector, El Perro del Mar sings a kind of indie doo wop, bringing together syllabic backing harmonies ("sha-la-la-la," "shooby doo-wop bah," and "be-bop a loo-lah" are some of the phrases she uses throughout the album), poppy melodies, simple vocal lines, acoustic guitars, and twinkling pianos on her self-titled full-length. But despite these brighter, happier elements that envelop her music, Assbring has a kind of despair in her voice that veils even the most cheerful of her songs in sadness. "It's All Good," in which she echoes variations of "it's all good, take a new road and never look back" throughout the entire piece, even in its optimism, conveys the sense that at one point things in fact were not good at all, even though they might be changing, and the breezy warmth of "God Knows (You Gotta Give to Get)" is more of a criticism of herself for "taking a lot without giving back" than advice regarding the benefits of altruism. More frequently, she doesn't even try to hide her melancholy in horns and major chords. "Party" is utterly depressing, as Assbring sings with hurt heavy in her voice, weighing it down so that she can hardly get her words out ("I don't want to stay at home/I just want to be a part of it") as her guitar drones on forlornly, and "This Loneliness," as the title implies, explores her own miserable solitude ("This loneliness ain't pretty no more/Loneliness, only taking a place of a friend"). The songs on El Perro del Mar hardly contain more than a few lines that are then repeated again and again, but this simplicity only adds to their poignancy, and how intimate and real they feel, and makes the album utterly impossible to ignore.
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AllMusic Review by Marisa Brown