Invariably, there’s always that one album, sometimes more, that garners some votes on our end of the year ‘best of’ list because it was released in Europe, then will also quite possibly make our list for the very next year thanks to its stateside appearance. For this year / last year that title belongs to I’m From Barcelona, called that presumably because “I and 28 of my friends are from Jonkoping, Sweden” was too much of a mouthful. In all seriousness, the band’s name was lifted from the British situation comedy starring John Cleese, Fawlty Towers. The collective started as bands usually do, with the creative drive of one person, namely Emanuel Lundgren, who wrote a few songs and got his friends together during a four week vacation to record them. Their debut EP came out just over a year ago, and already they’ve become something of a cult classic. But are they really all they’re cracked up to be?
I don’t know what’s more “precious,” the fact that I’m From Barcelona is a band boasting 29 members, or that they are a Swedish pop band claiming they’re from Barcelona and singing about treehouses and chicken pox. Having a horde of people onstage seems to be the latest gimmick in indie pop, and let’s express that in some kind of equation, shall we? Let’s see, Architecture in Helsinki < Broken Social Scene < Polyphonic Spree < I'm From Barcelona. And really, when you get to that many people, are they really adding to the mix or are they just another hand-clapper? However, having that many people in the band sure has propelled people's curiosity and thus their popularity. There are some people out there who talk about Swedish pop as someone who might talk about collecting first edition hardcover postmodern literature. Translation: that's all they listen to. Swedish pop has always been a wee bit on the precious side, with bands in the past like ABBA and the Cardigans, and with the continuation of the style in acts like Loney, Dear, the Concretes and Peter, Bjorn and John, it's hard to argue against the point.
There's no avoiding it, I'm From Barcelona are precious, but they're also quite enjoyably precious. Let's review some song topics, shall we? Every song title acts as a 'stating the obvious' introduction to the lyrics with names like "Oversleeping," "Collection of Stamps," "Treehouse," and "Chicken Pox." Each song only has about two verses so there's not much to them, but that simplicity is only part of the fun. Like any collective where you tend to run out of traditional instruments (or any music class in elementary school for that matter), the odd ones out are given things like ukuleles and shakers and asked to clap their hands and stomp their feet. While 29 members may sound like the mix might be overpowered by voices and sounds, I'm From Barcelona manage to keep things in check, no song ever becoming too overwhelming. "We're From Barcelona" is the first single and will sure to be one of the catchiest tunes of the spring. It may not overtake "Young Folks" in my book, but it's still a feel good treat. To top off this precious-fest we have two songs sweeter than the center of a gobstopper, that being "Barcelona Loves You" and "The Saddest Lullaby." With titles like those I probably don't need to explain, but in the first the band expresses that they are "in love" with each and every one of us, while the latter compares modern day confusion with a memory of wetting the bed.
I still can't decide what aspect of I'm From Barcelona is more sickly sweet, but it doesn't seem to matter. There's a place for twee songs about childhood just as there are places for songs about heroin and golddiggers. And sure, it's all fun and games and ukuleles for now, but just wait until Emanuel Lundgren has to figure out his taxes. There's no retreating into your childhood to escape the IRS, I can assure you right now. And just how do you divide proceeds by 29?
The Polyphonic Spree- The Beginning Stages Of…
Architecture in Helsinki- Fingers Crossed
Peter, Bjorn & John- Writer’s Block