The Shout Out Louds Grow Up

03/03/2010 4:15 AM |

Shout Out Louds

There’s not much to “get” about the Shout Out Louds &#8212 an increasingly rare occurrence in a genre that has Radiohead, Animal Collective and Dirty Projectors hoisted on pedestals for far-out concepts and coded lyrics. The Swedish quintet came into popularity at a time when the world of indie rock was, as Chuck Klosterman suggested in a 2006 article for SPIN, “composed of 100,000 Charlie Browns,” saturating their first two albums with lines like “Why don’t you please please please/Come back to me.” For better or worse, lead singer Adam Olenius was the quintessential Charlie: a slightly mopey-sounding, heart-on-sleeve tunesmith whose time was split between licking his wounds and tending to his Robert Smith vinyl collection.

Now imagine Charlie Brown 20 years older and a few bottles of anti-depressants later: He’d write a song like “Walls,” the lead single from Work. Here, Olenius sounds guarded, understandably so: “I took too many pills and wrote my will just to get to you,” he anxiously sings over threatening drum rolls. There’s a pause before he flicks off the words “So, go,” commanding the start of what could be described as a stop-motion pop song, each frame focusing on either a flitting piano or Olenius’ breathless moan. By the time talk turns to “Never trust anyone, so run away, run run run run run,” the pieces have gelled into something dense and cathartic. From there comes “Candle Burned Out,” a simple mix of rumbling drums and reverb washes nodding to the dreamy melt of once labelmates Camera Obscura. Together the two tracks illustrate how Work shifts between radio-ready singles and more subdued, textured numbers while showcasing its brick-by-brick construction, no doubt smoothed over by super-producer/polisher Phil Ek (The Shins, Fleet Foxes).

Chalk it up to age or experience or just being tired of chasing love, but Olenius’ reluctance to go all out all the time on Work translates into a maturity missing from earlier Shout Out Loud albums. This, of course, also means it demands a bit more work from the listener. It’s pop music refusing to be dumbed down but also refusing to give someone the excuse that they “just don’t get it.”