“Optica” by Shout Out Louds

This month, WERS is celebrating the Shout Out Louds’ Optica as our May Album of the Month!

“Optica” is the fourth full studio album from the Shout Out Louds rings in a whole new style for the Swedish indie-pop band.

The band’s first two albums Howl Howl Gaff Gaff (2005) and Our Ill Wills (2007) introduced the indie pop band as a simple and easy-listening group that wasn’t going to blow your mind with depth. These first albums are a lot of fun, featuring pseudo-moody vocals, fully danceable backbeats with an added element of triangle-tapping, tambourine spinning musical positivity to sugarcoat it all.

2010’s Work treaded slightly into deeper waters as lead singer and guitarist Adam Olenius began to experiment with instrumental space and time. Work’s “The Candle Burned Out” artfully exchanges between Olenius’ light verses and simple chords while drummer Eric Edman holds a singular rhythm throughout. The album continues much in this way, experimenting though perhaps underutilizing the forces of bassist Ted Malmros, guitarist Carl Von Arbin, drummer Eric Edman, and vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Bebban Stenborg.

Optica, released February 26th, leaves behind any singalong typicality of the band’s first albums and moves into a fuller and more meaningfully atmospheric style. Although their initial supporters might miss the deliberate danceability of tracks like “Very Loud” and “The Comeback”, after over a year of reworking and recording, Optica hits at a whole new level.

The album’s bestselling “Walking in Your Footsteps” relies heavily on Stenborg’s flutelike snyth and backup vocals to propel the track. Olenius and Von Arbin prod and tease with interweaving guitar riffs, eventually indulging listeners three-quarters through the track with a full instrumental apex.

Eerily beautiful female vocalist Stenborg is finally featured on Optica’s “Hermila.” Her deliberate, haunting lyrics and Malmros’ ominous bass lines are together a testament to this band’s previously untapped musical ability.

For fans of Howl Howl Gaff Gaff and Our Ill Wills, Optica’s “Where You Come In” meshes the band’s well-precedented danceability with their new experimental style. The track brings in the solo style former tour-mate Julian Casablancas, as unexpectedly dark lyrics overlay an upbeat, eighties rhythm. However, at the same time, the lyrical slowness of “Where You Come In” gives you moments to breathe, letting you really take in the subtle harmony of what you’re listening to.

“Circles” is the principle example of the Shout Out Louds’ M83-ambient experimentation. Throughout the song, Olenius sings of heading into the woods to escape his head running in circles, “I took the long way home / over the lake into the woods / watch me, watch me disappear / between the trees my mind is crystal clear.” Each time he leaves off singing, he makes way for a grooving, plucking synth that truly leaves your head spinning circles.

The album’s last track, “Destroy,” beautifully illustrates the Shout Out Louds’ newfound darkness beneath their cloak of electronics. Over the course of nearly seven minutes, Olenius’ pitch and echo amplified vocals somehow hold onto their mysticism. “Nothing is ever for sure no more / nothing’s what it used to be / now black is the only color I know / the only color to me,” he croons while Malmros meanders on bass.

Olenius closes “Destroy” and the album as a whole asking, “a change is always good if you want it / a change is always good, right?” Although the Shout Out Louds may have been unsure of their new album’s style exchange, Optica’s multifaceted strength and beauty certainly leaves no room for doubt.

By Maggie Ambrose

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