Liechtenstein 

Survival Strategies in a Modern World (Slumberland)

It's pop music. The survival strategy referenced in Liechtenstein's album title, we can assume, is consuming and creating it. Three girls from Sweden with a knack for three-part harmonies have hijacked the lo-fi trends that, of late, have mostly been reserved for punk bands, and they push them through the pop prism on their debut LP. Songs like "Roses in the Park" come out the other end sounding like a too-cool-for-school Talulah Gosh number. Anchored by a monotone bassline that plows through muffled guitars and snappy drums, the ladies sing chirpily about love. It'd be twee if it weren't for the waves of feedback and that spooky bass lurking underneath, and it'd be any Crystal Stilts song if it weren't for the engaged vocals. While they should of course prepare for countless comparisons to the Vivian Girls and Slumberland labelmates the Pains of Being Pure at Heart, Liechtenstein emerges as the closest ones matching all the 80s power-pop girl groups that critics love to throw at the bunch. The Vivian Girls skew towards punk, the Pains toward shoegaze, Liechtenstein towards bubblegum melodies.

Whether the Vivian Girls have seen the success that they have because they are girls existing in a male-dominated scene is neither here nor there, but it does raise the issue of gender as novelty in music. It's obviously less rare for girls to appear in pop bands, forcing Liechtenstein to rely on more than their gender to make a solid album. Survival Strategies in a Modern World moves quickly, but the subtle variety from track to track speaks volumes. "White Dress" mixes high-pitched surf guitars with eccentric cabaret energy, it's something that Amanda Palmer could have easily written. On album closer "The End," the girls sing politely over waltzy guitars. "Postcard" is a sugar rush showcasing lightning-quick drums; "Sophistication" introduces whistling spaghetti-western guitar work off in the distance. Every one of them is wrapped up into tidy two-to-three minute packages. Lichtenstein returns noise-pop to its form.

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