Long Gone Since Last Summer

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The second album by Swedish pop collective Irene, Long Gone Since Last Summer opens with the sprightly single "By Your Side," the sort of song that's propelled along by a double-time acoustic rhythm guitar and a perky horn section and has a subtle but unmistakable feel of the sort of early-'70s AM radio hit that got collected on Rhino's Have a Nice Day series. It's followed immediately by "End of the Line," which offers exactly more of the same, which itself is followed by "Looking for Love," which varies the formula enough to include Cowsills-style group harmonies and is followed by the jauntily frisky "Seaside," which...and so on and so on. In other words, Irene has an aesthetic and they're sticking resolutely to it. This is no bad thing, especially since this brand of unapologetically catchy bubblegum always has a place in indie pop: comparisons to Belle & Sebastian's perkier later singles are not unwarranted. Unfortunately, Irene is seriously hampered by singer/songwriter Tobias Isaksson's wobbly, pitch-poor voice, which detracts from the summery good vibes of the melodies and lyrics. With a less mannered vocalist, Long Gone Since Last Summer would be a carefree pure pop delight.

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