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Album Review

Sad Day For Puppets
Come Closer Ha Ha FONOGRAM

Article written by Kev W - Aug 28, 2013

Anyone who's followed the career of Swedish guitar-pop heroes Sad Day For Puppets will know they're reasonably prolific; music just seems to come to them naturally. Since 2008 they've released two albums and a further five singles and EPs containing exclusive material. As well as the band being tight, rock-solid players, there have really been three things that have stood them head and shoulders above the competition (I personally consider them the best band in Sweden). This trinity of genius is as follows: in Marcus Sandgren they had one of the best guitarists around, enveloping songs in blissful and unpretentious sound. This is something so many people fail to grasp properly and it results in nothing but showing off. Secondly there's the simply spellbinding voice of Anna Eklund, if you can't see the pure beauty in this then you should seek medical help. And lastly, the songs. The melodies sound as though they've fallen down from heaven.

Following their 2011 tour of Japan, Marcus Sandgren left his full-time role in the band (entirely amicably, he'll even being doing the odd live show from time to time), so one section of this trinity was missing. Would SDFP be able to make another record that matched their previous output? How would they fill the void? It's also worth remembering that for every guitar-smothered, staggering shoegaze/alt-rock song (examples would be 'Marble Gods' and Last Night' from debut album 'Unknown Colors', or 'The Monster & The Beast' and 'Such A Waste' from 'Pale Silver & Shiny Gold'), there were delicate, gorgeous, stripped-back tracks (let's say 'All The Songs' from the first album and 'Beads' from the second). So would this now be the default for Sad Day For Puppets? Perhaps not. Think about it: some of their best songs have been full-band indie/shoegaze/pop songs that haven't had such a rich coating of guitar. We'll' go for 'Cherry Blossom' and 'Sorrow, Sorrow' to pick one from each album again.

So as important as the guitar aspect is, the band can manage without it perfectly capably. They still have the very able playing of Martin Kallholm anyway, but it's the power of one guitar, not two. For 'Come Closer' the band have changed their sound, but not by much. There are more songs in the vein of 'Sorrow, Sorrow' and so on, they also use keyboards and a guest guitarist for some parts of the record (oh, and forget any notions of them going electro-pop, that's far from the truth). What we can't underestimate is that the fundamental long-term success of any band is down to the songs. This integral part of the band hasn't changed. The tracks they've written for 'Come Closer' are pure gold; irresistible, as though the melodies come from some magical place that no other groups have discovered. Add that voice to these songs and the result is even more angelic. Despite losing, at least for now, one of the things that made the band so great, they've adapted so that no quality is lost. This album is pure brilliance yet again.

You may have heard 'Come Closer' and 'Human Heart' already; both are honeyed and impossible to dislike. They sound like you'd expect, maybe a little more indiepop than shoegaze, but not indiepop as we know it; this is fantasy-land, dreamy and doesn't focus on replicating the past. Those tracks are not alone. There will be very few more gorgeous songs released this year than the lullaby-like 'Bye Bye'; it's about as perfect as this genre gets and all you can do is drop everything and listen. The tender and pretty 'Bells' is a love song like this band do with such subtle majesty. 'Senseless' gives us a glimpse into their previous, heavier sound but is still pure pop joy at heart. It's somewhat ironic that the song sings of a "honey-dripping voice" as that's exactly what it is. 'Destroyer' will also be one to look out for if you're after a little more rock in your indiepop, and the brooding 'Living Dead' pulls forth the dark side that has manifested itself in certain past songs, prowling around the speakers as if it's about to pounce.

The first indication of any slight change of style comes in 'Stardust'; it's more electronic than usual and lets us hear a side of the band that they've hidden until now. It may come as a surprise, but when they hit that chorus the song sails off into the clouds, and the same goes for 'Shiver And Shake' which has another stunner of a chorus and even a short guitar solo. 'Sugar' is the most prominent change of direction and does see Sad Day For Puppets come close to electro-pop; it sounds odd at first as it's unexpected and therefore may be the only stumbling block here. However, if you take it purely as a tune then it's still very good and soon becomes natural to listen to. Sad Day For Puppets have risen to the challenge of having one of their cornerstones removed and they've proven that through the sheer strength of their songs and those timeless melodies they seem to conjure from a secret source, the same source where Anna was gifted those amazing vocals, that they're a force to be reckoned with. Do I still think they're the best band in Sweden? You bet.


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