Love is All: Telling Stories with Raucous, Lo-Fi Pop

Love is All: A Hundred Things Keep Me Up at NightLove is AllA Hundred Things That Keep Me Up At Night (What’s Your Rupture, 11/11/08)

Love is All: “Wishing Well”

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In the fourth edition of The Rough Guide to Sweden, the 17th Century port city of Gothenburg is described thusly: “Graced with terraces of grand merchant’s houses…[the city] boasts splendid Neoclassical architecture, masses of sculpture-strewn parkland…[and] a cityscape of broad avenues, elegant squares, trams, and canals.”

It’s one of the last places that an American would go looking to encounter a bubbling independent music scene. But American fans have discovered exactly what lies somewhere beneath the hushed waterways, opulent edifices, and statues of ancient sea gods — an underground music niche, not yet carved into the old city’s consciousness, as are Swedish music giants such as ABBA and Ace of Base, but rather scrawled by its large youth population like cheeky graffiti in the corner of a solemn cathedral.

The regalness of its hometown doesn’t exactly fit Love is All, a band among of a new wave of Swedish indie-pop artists that includes The Knife, El Perro Del Mar, and We’re From Barcelona. If anything, the band’s sound is inextricably tied up with two very different times and cities — New York and London circa the late 1970s and the early 1980s, and bracing post-punk upstarts such as X-Ray Spex, Essential Logic, and James Chance. Yet the band is fond of its quiet, postcard-perfect hometown. “After a hectic tour, it’s nice to go home and be like, ‘I’m nobody’!” says Josephine Olausson, lead singer of Love Is All.

She’s being modest.

After years of quietly performing in various bands around the city, most notably the underrated Girlfriendo, Olausson, guitarist Nicholaus Sparding, and drummer Markus Görsch hooked up with bassist Johan Lindwall and sax player Fredrik Eriksson (recently replaced by James Ausfahrt) to form Love Is All.

“A lot of times [a song] starts with something that might be a jam; we’re playing along, jamming, and we use separate parts in other songs later. Then we’ll go through five hours of arguing.”

Two self-produced singles, combined with word of mouth, secured the band a deal with the New York City-based What’s Your Rupture? label. After a frantic and explosive three years following its well-received debut LP, Nine Times That Same Song, the band geared up for another fast-paced season with its sophomore disc, A Hundred Things That Keep Me Up at Night.

Under the scratchy lo-fi production and catchy jubilance of punky, whirlwind guitars and skronky sax soloing lies Olausson’s clever storytelling and lyricism. “Cats” is about a woman who lives alone with her cats and may have had something to do with her husband’s mysterious death, and “Boat Song” recounts a sea cruise gone horribly awry.

Although the band’s noisy pop teeters on the edge of implosion, a delicate balance between fun and anxiety permeates A Hundred Things… in songs such as the brutally honest “Last Choice,” in which the narrator describes a one-night stand as a late-night decision between dejected loneliness and an unknown encounter.

“I think it’s just a universal thing, when you’re single and you set your mind on going out and having a good time,” Olausson explains. “I’ve had that experience when you find yourself in conversations that you don’t want to be in, but you’d rather do that than go home alone.”

The songwriting process can be a long one, and that may have something to do with the three-year break between this album and the band’s debut. It’s hard to see the seams in such well-contained pop joys such as the first single, “Wishing Well,” and the insistent “Give It Back.”

Olausson offers a bit of insight into the band’s piecemeal and cooperative songwriting technique: “A lot of times [a song] starts with something that might be a jam; we’re playing along, jamming, and we use separate parts in other songs later.” Adopting a hint of hyperbole, she adds, “Then we’ll go through five hours of arguing. Well, I should say 50 hours, and then we’ll spend time putting it back together the way it was!”

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