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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
Halcyon Digest
No Age - Everything in Between
»No Age
Everything in Between
Sub Pop
Robyn - Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
The Walkmen - Lisbon
»The Walkmen
Fat Possum
Peter Morén
The Last Tycoon

Rating: 8.6/10 ?

April 8, 2008
With the ascension of their indie anthem "Young Folks" (which won a Grammy Award for Best Video in 2007), the trio of Peter Bjorn and John without a doubt became one of the more popular indie pop acts of recent years and, in the process of setting their own standards for the genre, helped to resuscitate a style that had been rolling down hill for years. Culling influences from Swedish acts of the 1990s like Brainpool and Popsicle, PB&J made their way from the hinterlands of Stockholm to pop stardom with their fourth album Writer's Block, an up-tempo release that re-captured the very essence of what indie pop used to be all about.

As history has shown in the awkward dissolution of groups from Cap'n Jazz to the Beatles, bands with three songwriters often find themselves in situations where the need to produce successful output while securing the group dynamic leads to an in ordinate number of compromises. Peter Bjorn and John are likely no exception to that rule, and one can imagine that for each of the finished tracks of freewheeling and urgent post-everything indie rock the band has released there exists a pile of discarded ideas and fragments gathering dust somewhere. Hence it comes as no surprise to find that in his spare time Peter Morén, the P of PB&J, has been able to write and record enough lovable material for a solo album. Though Morén's solo style shares an understandable number of trademarks with the work created alongside B&J, The Last Tycoon will come as a surprise to fans of the trio expecting another album of overdriven anthems and bright guitars. In his solo work Morén leans more to the acoustic, low-key side of things than those primed by Writer's Block may be hankering for. Reference to the full band can be made between Morén's solo songs and PB&J tracks like the wandering guitar ballad "Paris 2004," but even there The Last Tycoon exhibits a much more folksy air of bedroom intimacy. Taken as a whole, Morén's solo material could be described as gentler than PB&J.

But so textured and rewarding is The Last Tycoon that even emphasizing the skeletal importance of the album's acoustic guitar risks skipping the subtle flourishes tucked inside. Though they're never jammed front and center, the record also makes use of organs and pianos, light synth touches, vibraphone, drum machine, harmonica, and other soft accessories like hand claps and even a saw or two, and rather than being propped up and pushed to the point of gimmickry the instruments are allowed to settle in to the mix's natural flow. A prime example can be found in the light strings and old-timey piano of the penultimate song, "Social Competence," that serve to transform the track from a buoyant folky confessional to an infectious but subdued jingle. All of the album's corners, both bright and shadowy, are pleasantly surprising.

As one might expect from it's title (which is a reference to the posthumously published last novel of notorious alcoholic F. Scott Fitzgerald), The Last Tycoon is not a party album; the songs are down-tempo, more acoustic, and have a far folkier tone to them than any of Morén's recent work with Bjorn and John. For those of us having pumped their fists, shaken their hips, and whistled in time with "Young Folks" the change is very refreshing. But beyond being a mere change of pace the album also hints at a wealth of Swedish potential waiting to be revealed, and speaks highly of PB&J futures as well. Morén himself is obviously brimming with talent, and The Last Tycoon shows that he's definitely not a one trick indie pony.

Reviewed by Daniel Svanberg
A contributing writer for LAS, Daniel Svanberg now lives in Boston, far far away from Sweden, where he once lived, although the weather is the same.

See other reviews by Daniel Svanberg



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