Sad Day for Puppets

Unknown Colors

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Like many Swedish bands, Sad Day for Puppets display a remarkable ingenuity at making already sweet sounds even more confectionary. Unknown Colors, their debut album, revisits the halcyon days of the late '80s and early '90s, when indie pop crossbred with shoegaze and groups like Lush, Bettie Serveert, and Velocity Girl mixed those dreamy sonics with immediate hooks and melodies. Sad Day for Puppets don't make many advancements on that sound, except perhaps making it more delicate -- it's no surprise that their breezy songs have intangible or ephemeral imagery like skies, stars, and tears in their titles. Martin Kallholm and Marcus Sandgren's guitars chime, fuzz, and occasionally tear it up like Dinosaur Jr.'s J Mascis, while Anna Eklund's lighter-than-air voice gives songs like "Little Light" and "Blue Skies" extra wistfulness. While Sad Day for Puppets aren't doing anything particularly new, they don't really need to when they write songs as irresistible as "Marble Gods," which shows off those guitars and that voice at their most charming. "Romans" sparkles like it was dipped in sugar, but Unknown Colors offers a few different flavors of sweetness and light: the slinky fuzz bass and tambourine on "Mother's Tears" give it a surprisingly sexy vibe, and "Cherry Blossom"'s guitars have more of a rock strut to them than might be expected. As the album unfolds, it shows that Sad Day for Puppets also have a lot in common with contemporaries like the Pains of Being Pure at Heart and especially with fellow countrymen and women such as Sambassadeur and the Concretes, particularly on the swooning "Withering Petals and Dust." At times, it feels like the bandmembers let their well-worn sound do more of the work in their music than the actual songwriting, but the breakup lyrics of "When the Morning Comes" ("No matter what I say/It's just flowers on the grave") show there is some depth beneath the band's pretty surfaces. Even if there aren't too many previously unknown sounds on Unknown Colors, Sad Day for Puppets know how to use them well.

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