Our Ill Wills – 2007
Are you looking for some deliciously angsty, unapologetically indie-pop tunes to start your weekend? Then the Swedish band Shout Out Louds sophomore album Our Ill Wills might be for you. The album was produced by a familiar name around here, Björn Yttling of Peter, Björn and John fame (who also produced Lykke’s Li’s debut album). And like everything else Björn’s associated with, Our Ill Wills is produced extraordinarily; his ability to refine a band’s sound and project their most unique qualities is absolutely essential to the success of Our Ill Wills. Shout Out Louds lead singer Adam Olenius has a masterfully plaintive moan that broadcasts anguish, pleading, and heartache in a ringing and mellifluous way that brings countless comparisons to The Cure singer Robert Smith. And on Our Ill Wills, Olenius tells tales of broken hearts, losing loved ones, uncertainty, and (most of all) insecurities, packaged in a quite poppy and mostly cheerful musical package. The lyrics found here aren’t exactly profound in any deep sense (and in fact sometimes they make no sense at all), but the music is impossible not to love, and Olenius’ voice becomes an instrument in itself.
Like other albums I’ve listened to this week, Our Ill Wills features most of its best tracks up front. The starter, “Tonight I Have To Leave It”, a single from Our Ill Wills, begins the album in manic fashion; it flies in a frantic pace and is instantly addictive thanks to the tinkering keyboard, drum beats, and incredibly catchy chorus while Olenius sings bitterly of rejection. The second track, “Parents Livingroom” is one of the best written songs on the album. Olenius positively glows in the most wistful and longing of fashions, and the piano melody is simple, yet effective. “You Are Dreaming” stands out as one of the best on Our Ill Wills. It’s the first song to have a big chorus with a music swell; it’s simply a great textbook example of indie-pop and it can get stuck in your head for days.
“Impossible” is another album highlight. Olenius’ vocals are despair-filled, and the harmonizing and backing vocals are perfectly suited to the bittersweet mood. The lyrics are desperate and confessional, in a good and relatable way, and the cold synth beats meets the warm strings superbly (credit to Björn on that one). Olenius hits all new heights of bemoaning on “Suit Yourself”, singing “I had it all, but I lost it to you that day/I should have known when the birds ran from me that day” amidst a wash of fittingly hollow drumming, and a circling electric guitar line. It’s one of the saddest songs on the album, and it tugs the heartstrings when he hits the most dejected of notes on the line: “And suit yourself, just suit yourself, a little lover’s all I needed…” while managing to stay chock-full of an irresistible melancholy melody. Along with those, “Normandie” is a choice cut. It’s dreamy and forlorn – soundtrack material waiting to happen.
The best of the tracks on the last half of the album is “South America”, in which the anxiety-filled lyrics are the most tempting part. “Time Left For Love” is memorable for its exciting chorus, but in this case, the verse lyrics almost override that. Also, “Blue Headlights” from earlier in the album is the only song on which the female member of the group, Bebban Stenborg, takes on singing duties to mixed results. Her voice is sweet and custom-made for indie songs, but “Blue Headlights” has never caught on for me. Maybe it’s because it’s so musically different from the rest of the album. The music is pleasant, but generally uninteresting compared to the hook-laden rest of the album.
The Shout Out Louds, particularly Olenius, do owe a debt of gratitude to The Cure (seriously), but at least they’re a band pulling it off with style as opposed to letting mopey sadness suffice for quality music. What’s more, Our Ill Wills is a great pop album actually worth listening to. It delivers that coveted slice of escapism complete with depth, feeling, and production value and that’s just about all you could ask for.