The Legends

Facts and Figures

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Album number three, and a third entirely new direction for the Legends, who by this point no longer made any pretense of being a "mysterious" nine-piece group of unknowns rather than a one-man studio project of the prolific popsmith Johan Angergård. More than any of Angergârd's other outfits, the Legends make pop music with overt reference to other pop music, and Facts and Figures is no exception. Just for starters, the album shares its opening line with U2's The Joshua Tree, and there's at least one direct Belle & Sebastian quote in the lyrics. In a display of pure music geekery, the liner notes contain a list of recommended records, two for each year from 1974 to 2006, which reads like a road map to the touchstone obsessions evident throughout the Legends' debut (Jesus & Mary Chain, Comet Gain, Broder Daniel, presumably others had the list extended earlier) and second album (New Order, the Cure, Felt, et cetera.) (Those looking for clues to future stylistic shifts might take note that both Barry White and quirky Boston songwriter Don Lennon are featured with three albums apiece.) The inclusions most relevant to Facts and Figures span the entire time range, from Depeche Mode and Kraftwerk (the album design nods to Trans-Europe Express) through Momus and the Russian Futurists and, most pertinently, the Pet Shop Boys. To put it in other words: this is the Legends' synth pop album. It functions to some extent as a bridge between their first two, balancing the danceability and melodic exuberance of Up Against with the elegance and restraint of Public Radio, though it has neither the fuzziness of the former nor the blurriness of the later, swapping distortion and reverb for impeccably crisp electronics (and, occasionally, guitars). Perhaps because synth pop as a style, despite its knee jerk association with the new wave '80s, has remained remarkably relevant, resilient, and versatile, Facts and Figures comes off as the most comfortably modern-sounding and, somewhat expectedly, the most distinctive of the Legends' stylistic forays. That wouldn't count for much, of course, without some top-notch, memorable songs, and Angergârd comes through admirably on that front, even if these aren't quite the blissed-out pop nuggets of Acid House Kings and Club 8. Though it flirts with the sort of all-out indie dance-pop one might anticipate, and despite love-struck lyrics like those of the shimmering opener "Heart" (which, typically enough, lifts its drum programming from "Blue Monday"), this is a curiously conflicted, often emotionally cold album -- palpably the work of an isolated individual rather than a collaborative band. Singles "Play It for Today" and "Lucky Star" are relatively breezy in both content and delivery, but "Closer" and "Another Sunday" mix existential and romantic anxiety in with their pulsating beats and bleeps, while the beatless "Nothing on TV" is about as dreary as the title suggests. At times the internal disconnect between music and lyrics is downright hypocritical: the insecure downer of a title track laments "I don't like dancing and I don't like to rock," while the self-explanatory "Disco Sucks" (more accurately listed as "Discos Suck" in the lyric sheet) is practically apoplectic -- never mind that these are two of the catchiest and most propulsive tunes on the album. (Dance-hating dance music is, perhaps, a slight modification of the sugar-coated cynicism that has long been an indie pop staple.) Dance phobia or no, Facts and Figures is an impressively solid album of electronic pop that deserves to stand among Angergârd's finest work and win fans among discophiles and wallflowers alike.

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