Gothenburg's Agent Blå call their jangly, moody music "death-pop," but the drama they bring to their debut album Agent Blue feels more like life-or-death pop. The intensity of each song here reflects the band's youth -- the members of Agent Blå were barely in their twenties when they recorded the album -- even though Emilie Alatalo has a depth beyond her years when she sings "so young, so naive" on the doomy album opener "Derogatory Embrace." Along with plenty of drama, Agent Blue also has a remarkable sense of balance; as the band mix shadowy post-punk with seemingly inborn Swedish pop skills, they bring purpose to their jangle and temper their angular guitars with swelling melodies. It's a mix of fire and ice that they deliver in different but equally compelling ways, from "Lucid"'s juxtaposition of dark rock and sweet choruses to "Frustrerad"'s yearning melody and violently passionate lyrics. Throughout Agent Blue, the band build on the potential of singles like "(Don't) Talk to Strangers," which distills the thrilling mood swings of first love, and the joyously swirling "Rote Learning." "Red White Rose"'s swooning mix of beauty and danger is another standout, evoking PJ Harvey at her most searing. While songs such as "21:38" are slightly more monochrome than the best moments here, Agent Blue is an impressive debut that's raw and sophisticated at the same time.
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AllMusic Review by Heather Phares