Monday, November 7th, 2011
Loney Dear at The Drake Underground in Toronto
Frank YangWhile I don’t expect anyone loses any sleep over anything I write, I feel compelled to offer a formal mea culpa for my thoughts on Loney Dear’s last record Dear John. Said review wasn’t a thumbs down by any means nor was it inaccurate, but “yeah it sounds like all his other stuff but that’s okay” now feels at best faint praise and at worst, dismissive. And considering how much I’ve grown to properly appreciate the work and vision of Emil Svanängen, I’d like to take the opportunity of Saturday night’s show at the Drake Underground in support of his latest album Hall Music to properly praise him.
As I mentioned, it’s true that all the Loney Dear albums share a similar vibe and dynamic – that of orchestrally ornate pop that ruminates on love and melancholy the ebbs and crests with Svanängen’s falsetto – but rather than imply a lack of new ideas, Svanängen continues to find new angles to observe from and depths and heights to explore within those parameters. That every one of his albums offer a fully-realized suite of songs and are as worthy a point of entry into his catalog as any other is remarkable, and also necessary – his works have been released in North America in as non-chronological a sequence as mathematically possible, with Hall Music being pretty much the first to count as the “new” Loney Dear album everywhere in the world at once.
Within the parameters of what is Loney Dear, Hall Music could be considered a bit of a revolution, particularly when compared to its predecessor, Dear John. Whereas John was sonically dense and had a distinctly sleek and synthetic sheen to it, Hall Music feels sparer but bigger, no doubt a result of the chamber orchestra tour undertaken prior to its recording. It makes full use of the reverberant space around things to create a more stately, almost spiritual, frame to present Svanängen’s compositions, the net result being what may be the most cohesive and beautifully rendered album in the Loney Dear canon.
So you might think that reproducing all of the grandeur live would require a full band if not a full orchestra. Instead, his brief North American tour was billed as a solo one, which might have raised concerns about the material being done full justice – my reviews of his past two visits in June 2007 and October 2009 hailed his band for being able to bring his complex arrangements to life – but when you consider that the Loney Dear recordings are largely done by Svanängen alone, this might have actually been the more faithful presentation. And considering the stage setup consisted not of a single acoustic guitar but of a fortress of gear arranged on four sides around a single seat, I was pretty confident this wouldn’t be a thin-sounding show.
And indeed, “thin” was about the last thing you could call the hour-long set. Deftly working an array of effects, bass pedals and loopers with his feet while singing and playing 12-string acoustic, Svanängen did a remarkable job of recreating and reinventing material from all of his albums, even adding live percussion by playing an array of drums and cymbals and looping them into the mix. One-man band? One-man orchestra, more like. It wasn’t completely strictly solo – he solicited a choral F# note from the audience and had a tour companion named Susanna (missed the surname but she hails from a town about 10km from where original Metallica bassist Cliff Burton was killed – this was the banter on offer) on backing vox and keys for a few songs. Nor was it flawless as a runaway note from a stuck bass pedal during “My Heart” forced him to dash back to his laptop to silence the offending tone, though full points for not missing a single lyric while doing so.
At one point, Svanängen apologized for the slowness of the material chosen for the set, a consequence of the church settings he’d been playing at home of late, but no apology was necessary as it suited the sit-and-listen mood of the audience quite well. If there was any regret, it was that long-time bandmate Malin Ståhlberg wasn’t on hand to not only add backing vocals but to take lead on my favourite song from Hall Music, “What Have I Become?”. But to have her there would have made it a completely different show, and this one was just about perfect in its way; as beautiful and heartswelling as I’ve learned to expect Loney Dear shows to be, but in a completely new way.
Gimme Indie is streaming a live recording from Sweden a couple weeks ago.
Photos: Loney Dear @ The Drake Underground – November 5, 2011
MP3: Loney Dear – “Calm Down”
MP3: Loney Dear – “My Heart”
MP3: Loney Dear – “Ignorant Boy, Beautiful Girl”
MP3: Loney Dear – “Airport Surroundings”
MP3: Loney Dear – “I Was Only Going Out”
MP3: Loney, Dear – “I Am John”
MP3: Loney, Dear – “A Few Good Men”
Video: Loney Dear – “Young Hearts”
Video: Loney Dear – “I Was Only Going Out”
Video: Loney Dear – “Airport Surroundings”
Video: Loney, Dear – “I Am John”
Video: Loney, Dear – “Saturday Waits”
Video: Bjork – “Thunderbolt”
Aux.tv talks shop with Vincent Morriset, director of the film component of the new live Sigur Rós document Inni, out next week. And Jonsi’s solo projects continue with the announcement that he will score the new Cameron Crowe film We Bought A Zoo with new and old material. The soundtrack will be out on December 13 and the film will be released on December 23. Exclaim has specifics, and that title? Not a metaphor.
Trailer: We Bought A Zoo
Franco-Finn duo The Dø will be releasing their second album Both Ways Open Jaws on November 15. An MP3 for a single which came out on their Dust It Off is available now to preview, along with a video.
If you’re heading to Massey Hall tonight for the first of two shows by Noel Gallagher and are concerned you haven’t heard any of Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds because it’s not released until tomorrow, fear not – Rolling Stone has the former Oasis songwriter’s solo debut available to stream so you can get acquainted with all the songs you’ll be patiently waiting through before you hear “Don’t Look Back In Anger”. And apparently a half-hour film documenting the recording sessions of said album is out there; Rolling Stone also has those details.
Video: The Jezabels – “Trycolour”