Music Reviews
Loney, Noir

Loney, Dear Loney, Noir

(Sub Pop / Parlophone) Buy it from Insound Rating - 8/10

I've lost count of the number of times I've visited Sweden over the last six or seven years. I've walked in its vast forests, travelled in comfort (and arrived on time) courtesy of its efficient rail network, and visited a fair proportion of its major towns and cities, but for all my endeavours, I'm yet to bump into any sensitive singer-songwriter types. The law of averages - and a cursory glance at any worthwhile end of year list from the past few years - suggests this should probably have happened by now, but perhaps there's a valid reason: maybe, like Emil Svanängen, the Svensk-pop genius behind Loney, Dear, they were all deeply immersed in their home studios, crafting album upon album of perfectly formed indie pop? It's a nice thought.

You probably know the story by now. Quiet hard-working musician burns a few CD-Rs, give them to friends, sells a few at shows, builds a small but loyal fanbase, and then - BANG! - a few tracks wind up on the Internet, cause a stir at Sub Pop, and before you know it our reclusive hero is being pegged as the next Jens Lekman. And deservedly so.

Loney, Noir is technically Loney, Dear's fourth album - it was first available in his native Sweden in 2005 - and the first to receive an international release. I can't comment on his earlier efforts because of my late arrival at the Loney, Dear party, but I will say that Svanängen's home studio apprenticeship has evidently served him well. Songs like Carrying a Stone and I Am John (which featured in our March 2007 podcast) exhibit his masterful ability to add elegant layers of instrumentation to simple acoustic foundations. At times it sounds like a mini-orchestra has invaded his home studio. Other efforts are quieter and more contemplative (The Meter Marks On, which sounds like a subdued Grandaddy), offering minimal backing for Svanängen's endearingly wavering falsetto.

On a slightly critical note, Svanängen's lyrics may be demonstrate a little too much in the way of anxiety for some listeners (examples include, but are not limited to, "I am sorry, honestly I'm sorry I ruined your day" and "I'll always let you down"), but this is indie-pop and if you can't handle a few too many apologies then perhaps you're in the wrong place.

Loney, Noir is a beautiful serving of melancholia, and one of the most interesting and fully realised home recordings I've heard in a long time. The fact that Svanängen has already recorded an additional 50 songs is something of an added bonus, and hopefully Sub Pop will help to make these widely available in the near future. For the time being, though, those looking to enter the world of Loney, Dear will find Loney, Noir a convenient and welcoming starting point.