Peter Bjorn and John, El Perro del Mar, Yourself and the Air | Metro | Rock, Pop, Etc | Chicago Reader
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Peter Bjorn and John, El Perro del Mar, Yourself and the Air Critic's Choice Early Warnings (Music) Member Picks Recommended The List (Music) Soundboard

When: Thu., Nov. 12, 9 p.m. 2009
Price: $22, $20 in advance, 18+
Nothing on Living Thing (Almost Gold), the fifth album by Swedish indie-rock darlings PETER BJORN AND JOHN, is as catchy as their hit "Young Folks," but then again, nothing else on Writer's Block was either. The most striking thing about their latest record is the production—Bjorn Yttling has emerged as a skilled and distinctive producer in the past few years, working with the likes of Lykke Li and Anna Ternheim, and his contributions to Living Thing are inventive and appealing enough that they routinely outclass the melodies. He likes to isolate specific instruments to give their parts extra rhythmic punch, and he can do it without crushing a dainty tune. Unfortunately, many of the dainty tunes here are innocuous and merely pleasant, and that's not enough to keep Yttling's production from beating the shit out of them—on the twitchy "It Don't Move Me," for instance, it's not the wan melody but instead the percussive, reverby bass line that burrows into your brain. —Peter Margasak

On Sarah Assbring's latest album as EL PERRO DEL MAR, Love Is Not Pop (Licking Fingers), she finds a work-around to help her make the most of her impossibly twee mini-mouse vocals—instead of putting them out front alone, the new record surrounds them with ghosty, moody 4AD-style new wave. Instead of sounding tiny, she sounds ethereal, which adds a new dimension to her precious, hoping-for-romance lyrics. Now that it's floating in a sea of reverb and delay, her voice takes up more space, and she doesn't seem scared of the sound of it anymore. The songs always stop shy of rocking out, their dark vamping and synthetic plinking staying closer to the realm of soundtrack music—some tracks feel like they could run on for another 20 minutes, drifting infinitely, soft and pure. What hasn't changed on the new album is Assbring's unassuming Swedish charm, something she shares with Lykke Li—they recently did a split single together, to which Assbring contributed a cover of Aaliyah's version of the Isley Brothers' "At Your Best (You Are Love)." In fact Love Is Not Pop might be what a Lykke Li record would sound like if you sucked the party music out and filled it with Valentine candy hearts. —Jessica Hopper

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