Friday, October 4, 2013

El Perro Del Mar - El Perro Del Mar

El Perro Del Mar
El Perro Del Mar
The Control Group CGO040

El Perro Del Mar is the nom de disque of the Swedish singer/musician Sarah Assbring.  This was her American debut album.  She produced the album, wrote all but one of the songs, and played almost all the instruments on the record.   She has a high, gentle voice and like many Swedish indie rockers, she sings in English.  I'm into female indie rock and Swedish indie rock so I bought this solely based on the descriptions of the record that I read in reviews.  "Candy" opens the album.  It is a slow song largely driven by keyboards and features repetitive lyrics about buying candy for herself, apparently as a gesture of doing something for herself rather than trying to please other people.  "God Knows (You Gotta Give To Get)" is a poppier, faster paced song that reminds me of Lavender Diamond.  It is even more repetitive than "Candy" consisting largely of the phrase "you gotta give to get back" which is the message of the song.  It gets a little extra instrumental oomph courtesy of some saxophone riffing from Alexander Nilsson.  "Party" is one of my favorite songs on the record.  It is more guitar oriented and features an emotional vocal from Assbring imploring the subject of the song to go to a party with her.  Again the lyrics are minimal with lots of repetition.  "People" is a song about alienation with a gorgeous heartfelt vocal including some doo-wop style background singing that goes against the grain of the otherwise downbeat song.  It is another one of my favorites. "Dog" is a remarkable song in which she equates her lover's feelings for her with his feelings for a dog.  She brings in a drummer, Nicolas Janco, for "It's All Good" resulting in the most propulsive and upbeat song on the album.  It is the indie pop equivalent of sunshine pop loaded with "la la la's" in the chorus and positive lyrics about moving forward and not looking back.  Side two opens with "I Can't Talk About It" which is about her making changes in her life that she can't talk about, which she repeats over and over.  It seems like a ridiculous idea for a song, but I find it amusing.  Her vocal is a bit rougher, almost soulful in places.  "Coming Down The Hill" is yet another song with minimal lyrics in essence that she is coming down the hill with the good news that she no longer has the blues for the person the song is addressed to.  It also features a sunshine pop flavor.  "This Loneliness" is another one of my favorites.  With its ethereal keyboards and plaintive vocal, I find it very touching and the lyrics, which describe her relationship with loneliness, are comparatively more complex than the rest of the record.  Unlike most of Assbring's songs, this one builds in strength and ends with some force.  The album's sole cover is Dorsey Burnette and Joe Osborn's "Here Comes That Feeling" which was a UK hit single for Brenda Lee in 1962.  With a pulsing organ line and Nilsson's honking sax driving it, the song does have a retro feel to it, but the lyrics about loneliness and rejection fit right in with the rest of the album.  The album concludes with two bonus tracks.  "Shake It Off" is another very repetitive song in which she asserts her independence to contradict herself.  "Hello Goodbye" is a jaunty acoustic guitar driven song that consists of the words "a girl" "a boy" "hello" "goodbye" repeated over and over in various combinations until the end when "pa pa pa's" take over.  It sounds dumb but it works.  The song reduces to the bare minimum what most songs are about.  I really like it.  Normally the lyrical minimalism and repetition on this album would irritate me or bore me, but there is a rightness to the lyrics that I find satisfying.  It helps too that Assbring has such an affecting voice, she gives the words additional depth and feeling.  I like the intimate quality of the record and its directness.  Despite the paucity of instrumentalists on the album, it has a rich and varied sound reminiscent of another one woman band, Bachelorette although not as extravagant.  The sunshine pop and doo-wop inspired harmony vocals also add to the richness of the album's sound, Assbring is a very fine vocal arranger.  The album is melancholy without being gloomy, delicate without being wimpy, personal without being narcissistic.  It is one I play a lot.  Recommended to Julee Cruise fans who wish she sang faster.

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