Mildly bewitching, the Swedes’ debut album is effortless in its beauty.
Matthew Horton 2009
Swedish pop triumphs are now so commonplace that it’s a cliché to wonder how ABBA’s descendants keep coming up with the hooks; they just do. Lake Heartbeat – signed to record label Service, nurturer of DJ Kleerup, pop soloist Jens Lekman and Kings of Convenience side-project The Whitest Boy Alive – are the latest act to marvel at, upholding a rich tradition with fine debut Trust in Numbers and throwing some extra influences into the mix.
To be honest, their nearest touchstone is a French band, AOR revivalists Phoenix. The two groups seem united by a conviction that pop peaked in 1979 with Stevie Nicks’ contributions to Fleetwood Mac’s Tusk, and maybe they’re right. Lake Heartbeat’s smooth arrangements, helped along by producer (and one half of Balearic outfit Studio) Dan Lissvik, are pretty persuasive and hypnotic too, if all else fails.
In keeping with the band’s low public profile – singer Janne Kask and guitarist Kalla Kåks steer clear of album credits and publicity photos - Trust in Numbers is a shy set. It might border on faceless in its more run-of-the-mill moments, but more often it’s mildly bewitching. At its most impressive, it bears another delicate influence, this time early Prefab Sprout, who loom large over the strummed guitars and clanging bells of Solid Mass and appear in virtual facsimile on the dreamy Build the Wall Up. The latter is almost dangerously relaxed, but effortless in its beauty.
Golden Chain’s chiming intro is pure ABBA (Fernando, mostly) and develops into a happy-clappy anthem in the Polyphonic Spree mould. Rather wonderful as long as no one’s watching. Between Dreams is smoother than Bryan Ferry in a Teflon smoking jacket, before being upended by some incongruous military drums.
Strangely, the album’s most contemporary moments are its least successful. The whispering, polite dance of Blue Planet and Making Conversation seeps straight from the Empire of the Sun school of polished electro pop, but does little more than join the dots.
So it’s a fine line between muted soul and coffee table banality, but Lake Heartbeat generally settle in the right areas. At their best on opening double-header Mystery and Pipedream, they find the warmest of melancholy grooves and if they reach enough sympathetic ears, they’ll surely cheer up fast.