On his fifth album, Emil Svanängen (aka Loney Dear) decided to change things up quite dramatically. Where previous albums had been filled with big arrangements that filled his melodic songs to the brim with instruments and sound, on Hall Music he both scales back and expands his sound. By stripping out (or at least being less reliant on) traditional instruments and percussion, and adding in more unique things like church bells, odd synths, and harp, Svanängen adds to the dramatic impact of the songs. The wash of symphonic strings and reverbed cushions of sound give him an impressively serious backdrop to express all sorts of emotions. He takes full advantage of the opportunity, singing like a hushed choirboy one minute and singing to the back rows in an impressively strong show of vocal prowess the next. Mostly though, he soars over the music in a heartfelt way like a fully paid member of the superlungs crew along with Justin Vernon of Bon Iver and Robin Pecknold of Fleet Foxes. The preponderance of dirge-like ballads and super-dramatic moments can be slightly oppressive as the album goes along; the moments of lightness that break through the banks of cloudy melancholy are rare. The last track of the album is the best of these sunnier spots. Sung by Malin Ståhlberg, "What Have I Become?" is lyrically sad and confused but sports a lovely melody and an almost sprightly tempo. It sounds the most like a traditional Loney Dear track and, coming as it does at the end of the album, feels almost like a gift to the listener for making it to the album’s conclusion. Indeed, while the album is quite pretty and powerful at times, the overall mood of glacial gloom can be suffocating. Of course, if that is the mood you are looking for, Hall Music is a resounding success. Those who want something a little closer to the usual Loney Dear style may feel a bit let down.
AllMusic Review by Tim Sendra