I’m From Barcelona Who Killed Harry Houdini?

[Mute; 2008]

Rating: 4/5

Styles: indie rock
Others: Jens Lekman, The Apples in Stereo

The upcoming presidential election. The downturn of the economy. The mortgage crisis. The bankruptcy of long-standing Wall Street institutions. The Iraq War. President Bush. 2008 has been a rough year for Americans of every creed. So perhaps it's not too surprising that one of the year's finest twee pop albums arrives on our ravaged shores from Sweden, a country that ranked seventh on an international Satisfaction with Life survey just two years ago. And what is pop music but a means to escape the everyday woes and pressures of the world, temporarily replacing them with unpretentious musical melodies.

Early buzz about I'm from Barcelona (ironically, a 29-person band from Sweden) arrived in the United States in 2005 after bloggers caught wind of the band's homemade EP. Who Killed Harry Houdini?, the band's second full-length release and first on major-label affiliate Mute Records, continues the group's tradition of making happy, light-hearted pop music that's simultaneously fizzy and sticky. "Music Killed Me" opens with the words "Music almost killed me now/ I don't understand" and lyrically doesn't evolve much past those words. However, lead singer and songwriter Emanuel Lundgren has remarkably found a way to deepen his band's lush, joyous sound even further, and the track is soon overtaken by a dramatic and touching harmonic chorus of ahhhhs that make the air a little warmer, the sky seem a deeper, more vibrant shade of blue, and you a little younger, a little stupider, and a little more invincible.

Interestingly, "Gunhild," an instrumental tune that opens with ambient white noise and soft piano notes and that features French artist SoKo, falls in the middle of the otherwise pop-riddled album without ruining the album's flow or momentum. It'd be hard to believe that the placement of the track is anything but another brilliant move on the part of Lundgren: it comes at the perfect moment, allowing listeners some respite, an intermission of sorts, before launching back into their typically joyful, awesome, nearly perfect twee.

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