Music Reviews
Sweet Sensation

The Embassy Sweet Sensation

(International) Buy it from Insound Rating - 5/10

In my 2009 review of The Embassy’s Tacking, a 2005 album receiving a belated UK release, I bemoaned the relative lack of attention afforded this influential duo at a time when many were falling over themselves to praise all things Swedish (in origin) and Balearic (in style). The Tough Alliance, Studio and Air France were picking up plaudits left, right and centre, and Gothenburg had assumed an unlikely role as Europe’s primary purveyor of sun-drenched electronic nostalgia. Meanwhile, the scene’s progenitors, whose track Sincerely Yours provided the name for its leading label, didn’t even have a Wikipedia page at the time.

Fast forward three and half years and the world has clearly moved on. Air France called it a day in 2012; five years have passed since Studio’s last release; and aside from Eric Berglund’s solo output as ceo, The Tough Alliance haven’t released anything new since 2008’s Neo Violence EP. It may have taken them eight years to follow up Tacking, but it seems the unsung heroes and key influencers of this rich period in Sweden’s musical history are now among the last men standing. Unfortunately for them, the distinctly unremarkable Sweet Sensation is unlikely to lead to anything resembling a breakthrough.

Roundkick immediately sounds more professionally produced than anything on Tacking or the duo’s 2002 debut Futile Crimes. In the past, different instruments had a tendency to merge into a soupy mess; now the elements sound more separate, the percussion more distinctive, and the vocals more prominent. Of course, twelve years into their career, professionalism should be a given for The Embassy. The problem is it doesn’t always seem like such a great fit for them, with Fredrik Lindson’s vocals the most obvious victim of these dynamic shifts. While I suspect he was pitching for a sneering attitude on Roundkick, he comes off more like a guy with a bad case of allergic rhinitis. Lindson’s tone is simply too nasal to dominate the mix in this way.

The excessive implementation of different percussive sounds, effects, and sampled breath sounds lends Sweet Sensation an air of confusion. Related Artist is the simplest offering and unsurprisingly winds up being one of the album’s few highlights. The distant minor key jangle and insistent bassline recall previous Embassy favourites like the delightful Boxcar, and the absence of superfluous bells and whistles is immediately refreshing. Sadly, these return with a vengeance on the tiresome six minute endurance test International, and linger like an unwelcome guest for the remainder of the album. Even the otherwise pleasant finale, Everything I Ever Wanted, is ruined by a nausea-inducing chorus effect on the guitar.

There are some pleasant moments to be found in the album’s midsection — Livin’ Is Easy and Nightshift aren’t bad — but they are hardly reasons to return to an album that shows no innovation, limited progression, and a clear lack of editing skills. After eight years in the wilderness, The Embassy needed to produce a game-changer or a collection of great songs. With Sweet Sensation, they have issued nothing more than an underwhelming reminder that they still exist.