Sambassadeur is a catchy-as-hell pop band from Sweden, which might sound like the sort of thing we here at Bollocks! would pillory with our usual sadistic glee, but I’ve already professed my love of good pop music on this blog many times. It’s just that good pop music is so hard to find.
Which is why we should start importing it from Sweden. Sambassadeur traffics in seriously 80s pop, complete with synthesizers and bouncy-ass melodies. The key to their success, however, rests mostly on the shoulders of vocalist Anna Persson, who delivers those melodies with breathy perfection.
Their new album (only album? I really have no idea) is called Migration and it’s pretty short (9 songs, one of which is an instrumental and one of which is a cover), which is I think is crucial with music as wonderfully old-school as this. If you make an album of 80s pop in 2008, you don’t want it to run past the moment when people’s nostalgia passes. I’m a peculiar case for this, however, because most 80s pop (nearly everything that wasn’t by R.E.M. or the Cure) infuriates me. So what’s so great about Sambassadeur?
Brevity and Beauty. The album starts off with “The Park,” which is about a couple sitting on a park bench putting off breaking up (“Please don’t bring it up tonight”, Persson sings). The subject matter would be sad but the intsrumentation never allows you to trip off into emo moping. You’re too busy nodding your head to the violins and bopping drums. That’s pretty much the formula they follow on Migration, occassionally tossing in Peter Buck-ish guitars (as on the title track) or offering a male counterpoint to Persson (Daniel Permbo, who sings on “Someday We’re Through,” the second slowest track on the album – not to say it’s bad; it’s actually pretty nice) here and there.
The cover tune on Migration is a rendition of Dennis Wilson’s “Falling in Love,” which welds 60s pop to 80s pop in perfect proportion. If someone makes a Graduate for my generation, I want this song on the soundtrack. It’s a minor-key love song, drifting along on a cloud, and its a perfect example of Sambassadeur’s ability to create music that is somehow sugary-sweet but not cloying.
Migration is another one of those pop albums that the radio (at least here in the U.S. of A.) doesn’t know about and it’s one of those albums that really should be heavily featured on the radio. You know, to make the radio suck less. Right now, we seem to think Britney Spears and the fucking (or promising not to fuck, in this case) Jonas Brothers are pop. There was a time when The Beatles were pop (back when they invented it). Books can be written, have been written, and will continue to be written on exactly what the hell happened to pop, but in the meantime, albums like Migration and Santogold’s debut could go a long way toward repairing the damage. Part of what’s been lost is the realization that pop can be catchy and fun and also be good fucking music. There’s room for musical competence in every genre, just as there’s room for good songwriting in every genre. Mainstream pop and hip-hop (not to mention R& B, which hardly even exists in a listenable form these days) in the U.S., however, are plagued with boring, homogeneous artists (many of whom don’t write their own songs) who are lost in a whirlwind of coat-tails, grasping for any pair to ride until they’re the next celebrity rehab case. Don’t even get me started on Kanye West claiming to be the voice of my generation. (Kanye is a mediocre-at-best rapper and I’m sorry, but you don’t get to declare yourself the voice of a generation. So go fuck yourself, Kanye West.) There are great pop and hip-hop artists in the U.S. right now, but they’re not popular. Sure, I could sit here and say it’s the fault of the record companies for only signing acts that sound the same (and they certainly share in the blame), but let’s face it, folks: as a music-consuming public, many of us have been failing to perform our due diligence in the search for quality music.
Well, no more. Here’s what we’re gonna do – the holidays are a upon us and that means people will want gifts from you. So here’s the Bollocks! gift guide for 2008. If you have people on your list who like pop music, get them Migration or Santogold or a Fountains of Wayne album. If you have rock fans, get them (please!) Stay Positive or at the very least Boys and Girls in America. If you’re shopping for fans of R&B, get them anything by Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings. If you have hip-hop fans, get them either of the last two Atmosphere records, or Madvillainy. If you have punk fans, well, pour one out for that genre ’cause it’s all but dead. Just kidding – get them the live Clash album (it’s super good) or the Titus Andronicus record. It’s up to us to elevate the musical discourse in this country, folks – spread the love by showing people the way to better music. There’s great music out there and you can help people find it. Americans hate having to find shit out for themselves and the holidays provide the perfect excuse to educate them.