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I知 From Barcelona - Always Spring

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Artist: I知 From Barcelona

Album: Always Spring

Label: Mute

Review date: Apr. 27, 2011

There are certainly positive things to say about I知 From Barcelona痴 third album Forever Today. First off, they池e Swedish, and excepting the recent politically-motivated charges leveled against righteous whistleblower and personal creep Julian Assange, they come from a pretty great country. Second, they enjoy making fun, uncomplicated songs party songs music that aren稚 necessarily unique, but that raise one痴 spirits. In a world revealed by Wikileaks to be more awful than we had previously thought, entertaining and straightforward music can help pull us out of the garbage pit of despair.

Every time I run into one of these bands though, I can稚 help but feel divided. Personally, I don稚 have a lot of tolerance for pop music that doesn稚 deliver interesting vocals, instrumental hooks or some sort of unique structure. With so much music out there, it doesn稚 feel like there痴 a lot of time for bands that are merely fun, that don稚 offer either emotional or intellectual value. I put on Forever Today and feel unmoved by its inert spirit. Sure, it痴 pleasant pop, but the inspiration behind it is inanimate. It simply doesn稚 differentiate itself in any real way from every other indie-pop band. It痴 not awful; it痴 just generic, like an episode from the sixth season of Scrubs.

On the other hand though, some people lots of people perhaps just want music like this. Forever Today isn稚 offensive. There痴 nothing morally objectionable about the album. Plus, beyond trying to justify the broad appeal of their music, there痴 also the fact that maybe I知 From Barcelona isn稚 interested in doing more than that. Maybe they池e not aiming at high art. So, from both sides of the artist/audience divide, there痴 agreement about what everyone痴 looking for.

And Forever Today is cordial enough. Happy pop songs in major keys, some featuring orchestral instruments, others with crowds that sing back-up. There are 27 people in the group, too, the band痴 ubiquitous marketing point. It痴 striking, though, that for such large numbers, Forever Today feels particularly thin, neither full like Kurt Wagner痴 Lambchop nor dynamic like an orchestra.

I guess what really gets me about the album isn稚 so much that it痴 just fun; it痴 that in its fun-ness, it never aims to be anything more than disposable, and it痴 that lack of vision that sours the entire experience for me. Lyrics like 泥on稚 let 粗m get to you (鼎an See Miles) and 添ou got to take it easy (鼎ome On) are uninspiring at best and ignorable at worst. I feel bad calling them out on this because I can definitely see people getting excited about Forever Today and its gleeful quality, but it痴 clear that I知 From Barcelona aimed for the ephemeral rather than at least trying for something more.

And it痴 not that I don稚 like things that are enjoyable I知 not some dour Nietzschean dude scowling at the world but I just don稚 think that listeners need to settle for mere enjoyment devoid of either intellectual, emotional or artistic worth. Sure, Forever Today may be immediately uplifting simply because its pop music, but maybe we should be asking more of 吐un bands. Maybe just saying an album is enjoyable isn稚 enough. We should be demanding meaningful music and an emotionally resonant spirit, inventive structures and innovative lyrics: a creative sense of fun.

In the end, mere enjoyment is empty. Truly compelling art is the kind that grips you. I知 From Barcelona is fun, but ultimately shallow.

By Andrew Beckerman

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