Thursday, September 10, 2009

One More Reason to Move to Scandinavia

When Saints Go Machine: Ten Makes A Face (2009) [EMI Denmark]

Okay so this album is not out in America yet. Usually I'd care about that because I'd hate to hype up a record you can't even go purchase, but sometimes a collection of songs comes along that makes you break your own rules just because it's that powerful. And not powerful like When Saints Go Machine are a band with a message or anything like that. They may very well be, but that's not why I'm here doing something I usually wouldn't. Because no crappy couplet about capitalism will change your political beliefs and no sappy love song will move you to go ask out that girl from accounting, but sometimes it's just the pure aesthetic beauty of something like the perfect combination of demented reverb and darkly inviting synth strings can make you say, "this is just too gorgeous to stay hiding in Denmark."

And of course there's that whole Internet thing. Sorry, Denmark, I guess that might have already ruined your super special secret surprise for the world.

But what a super special secret surprise! When Saints Go Machine's debut album Ten Makes A Face is the kind of record that not only makes you grab your friend by their shirt collar and say, "listen to this album or I will gut you like a fish," but it also makes you while away the hours of a lazy summer day by pressing repeat over and over again until suddenly it's bedtime. It's the kind of record where at one moment you'll be gushing with glee out of all of your orifices because of the synthesis of pop hooks and avant-garde electronica beats and the next you'll just be straight up banging your fists on your desk in a mighty groove as it blasts out of your tinny desk computer speakers with nary a thought in your noggin. It's furiously ear-pleasing, fascinatingly different from any pop record you'll listen to this year, and maddeningly addictive all at once.

"New Elvis" has a pounding low-end percussion section that is amply complemented by a wickedly delivered falsetto-driven chorus, which places it possibly the most prominent example of WSGM employing equal amounts of joy and weirdness in a single 3.5-minute verse-chorus-verse track. Possibly even more immediately enjoyable is "Spitting Image", a pulsing dance floor jam that feels like it's grabbing influence off the metaphorical shelves of 1980s keyboard-pop, 1990s neo-soul, and contemporary electro-minimalist behemoths like The Knife, all in an impressively calculated manner. This last bit makes the most sense because the man behind the mixing board for that Swedish heavyweight duo is also responsible for the lush yet skeletal allure of the instrumentation on Ten Makes A Face.

If I had to guess, though, I would predict "Head Over Heartbeat" to become the U.S. single whenever the album eventually makes its way overseas. Not only does it have the refreshing adventurous sound of the previous tracks mentioned, but its xylophone riff and lyrical refrain ("my girlfriend's on a date she don't know!") is so blissfully rich and bombastic in its execution that its power is literally impossible to deny.

And that's what this is all about, right? The power of music that somehow finds its way into headphones, whether randomly via Internet browsing, through personal suggestion, or because you were forced to absorb it during an awkward silence in your ex-girlfriend's Toyota Camry, is a wonderful thing. Even the slower tracks that demand more caressing attention, like "Armed" or "Fail Forever", end up sneaking up on you on that third or fourth listen, all because of the power of that first headphones session that inspired you to press play again days later. I still haven't had enough time to digest all the main melodies, much less the lyrical content, and I've been listening to Ten Makes A Face obsessively for about a month now. But I bring this to you now so you, like me, can (hopefully) get wild about a little band from Denmark and pass on the word, one person at a time, until someone finally picks up that pen and signs their EMI worldwide distribution deal and I can (just as excitedly as if I had heard it for the first time upon its U.S. release, I might add) go and purchase their album from my local record store.


Spender said...

First, thank you for the widgets. Hearing the songs as I read the words really reinforces your opinions.Nice, indeed.
Electro-minimalism is a blossoming sub-genre with a large number of very talented people mixing and matching the elements you touched on in your review and I really hope that bands like The xx and WSGM find deserved success in the U.S. Thanks for the review and for introducing me to my next favorite CD.

Sean said...

"Fail Forever" didn't quite pull me in, but "Head Over Heartbeat" and "Armed" grabbed me a bit more. Your enthusiasm is infectious all the same; certainly enough for me to give the album a shot.

Caspar said...

Ooh, this is pretty good. They kind of remind me of The Crayon Fields, and definitely have a sort of twee-pop sound, from what I can hear. Interesting.

Felicia said...

I freaking love Scandinavia!! I truly believe Scandinavia and Canada put out some of the best music. Although according to my friend who spent two weeks in Scandinavia this summer, probably some of the worst too.