Short Review: An above-average collection of pleasant, yet inessential, indie pop.
Long Review: The third LP from Swedish pop masters Shout Out Louds is one catchy motherfucker. Work is packed to the gills with hooky little love songs that would, at worst, make for excellent soundtrack fodder and, at best, sound right at home on a mix CD for that girl in your Creative Writing class who's always wearing the Cure t-shirts. Fans of Camera Obscura, the Pains of Being Pure at Heart and being desperately infatuated with someone will find a lot to like on this record.
And yet, it could have been so much more.
The Shout Out Louds are capable of creating transcendent, essential music, yet they seem unable to capture their magic for more than a few fleeting minutes each time. They did it twice on their debut record with "Very Loud" and "Seagulls," two of the finest pop songs created in the last 20 years. The band was able to catch lightning in a jar again on Our Ill Wills with its lead single "Tonight I Have to Leave It," a track with a nearly palpable sense of glamor.
At its best moments, the band is cackling with energy. It is an almost tangible thing, an unobtainable specter of excitement that hangs over their best moments, nearly visible. That manic spark is absent from Work. As a result, the album is fine enough, but never great.
I'll say this: As much as I enjoy the high points on the album, the swelling choruses on "1999" and "Walls" come to mind, I struggled to listen to the album the whole way through. Before, the band never had to, ahem, work to hold my attention. This time around, they keep losing me.
This is such a charming little band, such a charming little album that one wants to like it more than it deserves. Because, really, there is nothing wrong with it. It's just...missing something. What made "Very Loud" and "Tonight I Have to Leave It" such great songs? Rest assured, it's some impossible, immeasurable thing that, for whatever reason, doesn't ever appear on this album.
So, yes, this is a catchy album. It is, as I said, packed with fun--almost twee--songs about love and longing, and is a totally fine record for fans of indie pop. But for a band like Shout Out Louds, a band that has it in them to really move people, "fine" really isn't enough.