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 » Full Dark, No Stars - Stephen King's new novella questions mankind's ability to trust others.
[02.21.2011 by Bridget Doyle]

MUSIC

 » The Top 30 Albums of 2010 - Fashionably, fabulously late, our favorite music (and believe me, there was a LOT) of 2010, the year that some have called the best year for music ever. And only some of those fools work here. Plenty of usual suspects, lots of ties and a few surprises that I won't spoil, including our unexpected #1.
[12.24.2010 by The LAS Staff]

MUSIC

 » Live: Surfer Blood/The Drums at Lincoln Hall, Chicago, IL - Remember when Weezer used to put together records that you could sing along to and rock out to? That's what Surfer Blood's show was like!
[11.04.2010 by Cory Tendering]

Music Reviews

Screaming Females - Castle Talk
»Screaming Females
Castle Talk
Don Giovanni
Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross - The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
»Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross
The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
The Null Corporation
Deerhunter - Halcyon Digest
»Deerhunter
Halcyon Digest
4AD
No Age - Everything in Between
»No Age
Everything in Between
Sub Pop
Robyn - Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
»Robyn
Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
Konichiwa
The Walkmen - Lisbon
»The Walkmen
Lisbon
Fat Possum
Peter Bjorn and John
Writer's Block
Almost Gold

Rating: 8.5/10 ?


January 31, 2007
Peter Bjorn and John is the translucent band name of a trio of Swedes named Peter, Bjorn and John. Whether this is a tongue-in-cheek tribute to the self-named bands of yore, or simply the best they could come up with, there is a certain charm to it. On their self-produced debut, the sardonically titled Writer's Block, this charm is everywhere to be found. It even permeates the self-imposed rules the band agreed to before recording: 1. Keep it simple. 2. Don't lose the spontaneity of the first take. 3. Don't stay in the studio for more than four hours at a time. 4. Change instruments with each other often. 5. Follow your heart. All this seemingly could have led to the most twee release this side of Scandinavia; but in the spirit of irony, the end result is fittingly a pop masterwork.

From the forceful marching snare that opens the record, it doesn't take long to ascertain that these chaps are perfectionists at the art of song construction and arrangement. Every detail is assiduously paid its due attention, and each song crackles to life hot on the heels of the previous. It also is clearly evident that Peter Bjorn and John know just who their influences are, and sonic homage is given to past masters Echo & The Bunnymen and Squeeze, as well as recent mainstays Belle & Sebastian and Beta Band. But rather than simply emulate, the band strikes the iron with their own distinct flare, forging a style firmly centered around the craft of quality songwriting.

After the fifteen second wordless intro "Writer's Block", the album starts proper with "Objects of my Affection" and the opening lines "I remember when/ when I first moved here/ A long time ago/ Cause I heard some song I used to hear back then/ A long time ago." This perspective perfectly sets the stage for the sentimental flavor that permeates the album. Like memories of high school, music we love from our past is never that far away, and we keep it there for a good reason. "Young Folks" features great guest vocals from Concrete's Victoria Bergsman and the best whistling since Andrew Bird. "Amsterdam" recalls the vocals, beats and mirth of Madness.

The pulse of the album gets beating midway through on successive tracks "Paris 2004" and "Let's Call it Off." Both songs brim with infectious energy, jangly guitars, snappy rhythms and nasal vocals that will make the listener yearn for the days of mixed tapes. One can vaguely hear Naked Eyes whining "There's always something there to remind me." When the band sings "I'm all about you/ You're all about me/ We're all about each other" alongside a deliciously precocious keyboard riff, the modern linguistic update is appreciated. As with the smartest pop pranksters, sly humor may be veiled but it's always vaunted. The album winds down with three more standout songs that stretch themselves out like a fading era. "Roll the Credits" appropriately declares "Let's pull the curtains down and leave."

The debut Writer's Block from Peter Bjorn and John ostensibly follows every rule the band laid out. The instrumentation is superb, the record feels unforced, and the music is heartfelt. The three men from Stockholm may have had a case of writer's block in naming their band, but the ten songs they recorded in their limited and spontaneous studio time flow with boundless ease.

Reviewed by Ari Shapiro
A staff writer for LAS, Ari Shapiro mixes up pretty unique smoothies at XOOM in hot Tucson.

See other reviews by Ari Shapiro

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