Peter Bjorn and John

Falling Out

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Peter Bjorn and John are three guys from Stockholm who have a knack for fine power pop-influenced and new wave-tinged guitar pop. Peter handles the vocals and guitars, John the drums, and Bjorn mans the bass and various keyboards; between them they have created a fresh and exciting record that is packed with great songs and intriguing sounds. Falling Out is their American debut and it sounds like the work of a band that has been perfecting its sound for years (as they in fact have since 1999). Their tunes are colored by glockenspiels, Speak & Spells, zithers, omnichords, and cheap synths and built on wonderfully inventive and heartfelt arrangements. Beneath the rich and varied sounds are some truly powerful songs. The up-tempo tracks are tense and tough, and Peter's rasping and heart-on-sleeve vocals ride the melodies like a Joe Strummer who was grounded in pop rather than punk. Tracks like "Far Away, by My Side," the surging "It Beats Me Every Time," and "Money" clatter and soar and stick to you like marmalade. Connect the dots and you end up at the New Pornographers or Spoon. As fine as these tracks are, the soul of the record is in the ballads, and that soul has a darkness that comes only from heartbreak. "Does It Matter Now" oozes pain and sports a wrenching guitar-destroying climax. "All Those Expectations" builds from calm acoustic balladry to devastating passages of jagged guitars and mournful harmonica. "Big Black Coffin" is the centerpiece of the album, a big ballad complete with magisterial horns. The rising and falling dynamics and Peter's aching vocals place the song in epic-ville, not far from Wilco if Wilco were three pop-loving Swedes with a Spector influence and a Springsteen heart. Songs like that and "Tailormade," another track that will leave you slack-jawed at the sheer power, place them very close to the best indie rock -- no, just plain music -- being made in 2005. More punk than the Concretes, less frantic than the Shout out Louds, as catchy as the most tuneful of the U.K. post-post-post-punk merchants, Falling Out firmly establishes Peter Bjorn and John as a group to watch out for. Strike that. They are a band that has arrived in all senses of the word.

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