The Legends have taken so many left turns in their long and sporadic career that it's all but impossible in 2017 to recognize them as the same band that recorded the noise pop classic Up Against the Legends in 2003. Under the stewardship of Johan Angergård, the band has done '80s new wave, slick synth pop, breezy indie pop, and, on 2015's It's Love, the kind of modern synth-led R&B that threatened to take over the indie world. Now, on Nightshift, Angergård has gone full Moroder, suiting up and playing his keyboards like he was driving a car at night through rain-slicked streets. Not exactly the same way that bands like Chromatics and Electric Youth did for the Drive soundtrack, but it wouldn't be a shock if he made a quick study of that influential artifact at some point along the way. Along with the squelchy synth tones, fat bass notes, robotic drums, and glossy washes of sound, he feeds his vocals through vocoders and processing to give it that nice alien feel. Guest vocalists Elin Berlin of Eternal Death, Red Sleeping Beauty's Kristina Borg, and Maria Usbeck all show up to duet with Angergård and provide some sweetness to go along with his machine-driven vocals. It may not sound like the most original direction for the project -- maybe even a little clichéd -- but there are mitigating factors. First and foremost is Angergård's knack for writing hooks. It doesn't matter what style he tries out, the songs are always there and Nightshift is filled with memorable tunes, cute little chord changes, and lyrics that hint at the alienation the synths make clear. He's also a master at absorbing sounds and influences and making them seem like his own ideas. So when he jacks the Jonzun Crew (or is it Newcleus?) on "Space Jam," he gives it a melodic twist that makes it pure Angergård. Even when he strays a little off course, like on "Cocaine," which sounds like Lorde on downers, there's enough of his own personality and skill to make it work. Only the cover of the Chainsmokers' "Roses" doesn't succeed, and that's mostly because you can't polish something that refuses to be polished. Remove that song and the album instantly improves. Cut the album's running order a bit -- at 16 songs and 44 minutes it does begin to drag a bit at the end -- and it would be a very good record. As is it, it's good and fun, and stands as yet another example of just how easy it is for Angergård to drop into a style and make it his.
AllMusic Review by Tim Sendra
feat: Maria Usbeck