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Loney Dear - Dear John

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Artist: Loney Dear

Album: Dear John

Label: Polyvinyl

Review date: Jan. 26, 2009

Loney Dear is the musical nom de plume of Emil Svanängen, a prolific young songwriter from Sweden whose homemade CD-Rs garnered enough buzz to attract American indie imprints Sub Pop (who reissued his debut, Loney Noir), and Polyvinyl (Svanängen’s current label patron).

With the success of Peter, Bjorn and John and Jens Lekman, it seems that Swedepop has hit its Stateside zenith. Whether Svanängen and Loney Dear confirm the trend’s durability or are the harbingers of an inevitable decline probably depends on which side of the fjord you’re on.

Loney Dear’s latest, Dear John, is an endearing slice of small sigh indie-pop, well ornamented and too cute by half. Melodically, it’s not dissimilar to American retro-miserablists Midlake, but with more analog electronics. Svanängen’s voice conveys a tenderness that borders on the feeble – sometimes you want to shake the kid – but it’s easy to be lulled by the sadsack tinkle. Next thing you know, you’re wallowing along, thinking dreamily about socialized medicine and wishing your shoes were clogs.

This is music for staring out frosty windows while numbly licking snow from your mittens. Great stuff for moody 12 year olds or pigtailed baristas, but nothing you’d want to hang a genre on. “Time didn’t show kindness to me at all,” Svanängen sings on the album’s most affecting track, “Harm.” Hushed acoustic guitar and dramatic keyboard swells frame an exquisitely vulnerable vocal, but the melancholic vibe is compromised by Svanängen’s Elmer Fudd-ish pronunciation of the word “stories,” as in, “that’s how I fell from the top of twelve stowwies to the ground.”

Swedepop fans should swoon for Dear John, and the rest of us will find it to be a perfectly tolerable latte ’n’ laptop soundtrack. Don’t forget to drop a buck in the tip jar.

By Casey Rae-Hunter

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