Håkan Hellström

Ett Kolikbarns Bekännelser

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The lead-off single from Håkan Hellström's third album, Ett Kolikbarns Bekännelser may not be fully representative of the album as a whole, but one thing is for sure: it represents a marked departure from his previous output. While his first two records were variations on manic 2000s indie pop, Ett Kolikbarns Bekännelser has a looser sound, a chordal structure reminiscent of 12-bar blues and a prominent flute making it sound more like a rock & roll shuffle from the hippie era rather than anything from the last 25 years. Hellström's flow of words is now more storytelling and biographical in nature than his lovelorn poetry of yore. And while there are still a lot of quotes and phrases from his influences, they now make up a lesser part of the lyrics than before. There simply is more of Håkan here, it seems, something that is also reflected in the longer, slower, and more thoughtful songs.

These changes in sound and style are surely effects of at least two factors: Hellström turning 30 and the departure of his young right-hand man, guitarist Timo Räisänen; the replacement of Hellström's main creative partner being veteran guitarist Björn Olsson of Union Carbide Productions and the Soundtrack of Our Lives fame. This album's increased retro leanings in both songwriting and record production should come as no surprise to those familiar with Olsson's previous work. There's a more relaxed attitude toward hi-fidelity on this record; just listen to the constant buzzing noise on the "Loch Lomond"-inspired lullaby "Bara Dårar Rusar In," the strangely panned drums (drummer Fredrik Sandsten really gets to shine on this record), and the lovely strummed (though never perfectly in tune) acoustic guitars heard throughout the whole record. These are no doubt influences from co-producer Olsson, who helps make Ett Kolikbarns Bekännelser a warmer-sounding album than its sometimes harsh predecessors.

The album's length -- only nine songs are included -- helps make this Hellström's most consistent release thus far, making it hard to pick highlights. It's perhaps also the most varied: "Magasinsgatan" would not have been out of place on his debut, with its intense energy and tales of drunken love; there are the aforementioned lullaby and hippie grooves, and then there are some of the very best songs of Hellström' career: "Dom Kommer Kliva På Dig Igen" and "Hurricane Gilbert," both painfully emotional tales. The first somehow manages to relate a news story of a school shooting to the narrator's own youthful struggles, while the second is a tribute to rhythm guitarist Daniel Gilbert, even tackling the breakup of his marriage. A truly fantastic album, rivaling the quality of Hellström's already legendary 2000 debut, though in subtler and more subdued ways.

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