Music Reviews
Dear John

Loney Dear Dear John

(Polyvinyl) Buy it from Insound Rating - 6/10

This is the fifth full-length from Loney Dear of Sweden, real name Emil Svanängen, who claims this to be his best yet. All previous albums have been a journey in reaching this one he tells us and I think I might just agree with him, although a part of me hopes the next will be even better.

Loney Dear has produced four albums of wistful, twee, highly-strung musings and, with the fifth, he's lost the comma in his name. Loney, Dear clearly just wasn't working before. It took him four albums to realize that?! Jesus.

Following outstanding tracks such as I am John on previous album Loney, Noir it's pleasing to hear Dear John beginning in a similar vein. Svanängen is at his best when his vocals and lyrics vault off to a quick tempo and he's halfway through the song before you've bothered to tune in. He clicks, plucks and fizzes his way though first track Airport Surroundings, a definite stand-out, and its successor Everything turns to you.

On Dear John Loney Dear now builds songs as if he's playing Jenga. Is it too risky to add another brick? Are there too many bricks already? But then that's the point. If the tower can't take it, it will collapse. The same can be said of many of Svanängen's tracks, in a positive sense, into a crescendoed fusion of synths, wails, strings, scratches and warped voices. His previous albums are more stripped down and minimal; Dear John is a new direction in textured instrumentation and this album is much, much better for it. The bass line and jangly, tinkly drums on I was only going out are so desperately catchy it's almost annoying.

Svanängen's vocals on previous albums have been so thin and high it made me cringe and my earphones buzz. This caused his music to bear an occasional (unfortunate) resemblance to the Bee Gees, but thankfully he seems to have addressed this problem on Dear John. He uses his own vocals to much better effect, with harmonious layering or distant crying echoes. I Got Lost in particular is unlike anything else you would have heard on previous records.

However, Svanängen's softer, whimsical, crooning side can at times be a little hard to tolerate and some tracks become a little repetitive; this is a particular problem in the latter stages of the album. At times Loney Dear just doesn't offer enough variety; songs seem to keep floating by and nothing stands out. It's all nice enough but there's nothing ground breaking here; I'm almost just pleased he's less irritating than before, although I can't quite excuse the West End musical style upward key changes on Dear John itself. That brought back my cringing face.

However, this is an album worth pursuing. There are some hidden gems and the fuller production on several tracks does deserve repeated listens. Loney Dear's songs are often quite unpredictable and changes in rhythm or instrumentation give astute turns, leaving you slightly trailing in their wake. Dear John is a definite step in the right direction.