Andreas Kleerup might turn out to have been the Zelig of late-’00s Swedish dance-pop. The Stockholm producer’s surname originally appeared as the main artist on late-2006 single “With Every Heartbeat”, a string-draped beat ballad that went on to become a UK No. 1 for Robyn. His 2008 album, simply titled Kleerup, gave an early glimpse of now-U2-collaborator Lykke Li broadening the coy range of her debut album earlier that year. Neneh Cherry? The Swedish-born pop innovator made herself at home on Kleerup’s debut, too. Throw in connections to the Concretes (whose Lisa Millberg guests on Kleerup) and the Tough Alliance (his group the Meat Boys remixed 2004’s “Holiday”) and this erstwhile drummer is six degrees from just about any Swede you’d care to name. Going beyond Scandinavia for a second: Did I mention he did a remix for Lady Gaga?
Kleerup’s first major release since his self-titled debut went international in 2009 shows he still has fine taste in friends, but it’s a bit like being introduced to perfectly nice people at a party where the host isn’t able or willing to help explain what you have in common. As If We Never Won, the first of two mini-albums Kleerup plans to release in the next couple of years, once again fixes undeniably talented Swedish vocalists to unabashedly warm-blooded synth-pop. This time, though, the combination just doesn’t result in songs as fresh and appealing as “With Every Heartbeat” or Lykke Li team-up “Until It Bleeds”; Kleerup doesn’t turn out to be endlessly adaptable to the artists he’s with, after all. The result is a pleasant yet also mildly puzzling stopgap that fails either to show newcomers what all the original fuss was about or longtime fans why a proper follow-up has taken so long.
Despite the long gap since Kleerup, that album’s ’80s-immersed spaciousness has remained a common characteristic in more recent pop. So it’s not that Kleerup sounds behind the times when he delves into operatic Euro disco with M83/Röyksopp vocalist Susanne Sundfør on “Let Me In”—though the song’s video, which mainly focuses on Kleerup and his gear, through occasional colored effects, may speak to where his aesthetic is at these days. He broadens his palette a bit, too: “Rock U”, a smoky collaboration with Niki and the Dove‘s Malin Dahlstrom, winds up somewhere between the new Stevie Nicks album and Haim‘s “Forever (Giorgio Moroder (Remix)”. And an appearance by constantly underrated former First Floor Power singer Jenny Wilson is always welcome, arriving here in the cryptic, mournful pulse of “To Die For”.
Still, it’s hard to shake the sense these all would have been lesser cuts on the debut album, and nothing here lifts the full record out of its malaise. Opening instrumental “Sad Boys”, another one in the Moroder–Cerrone tradition, works as a continuation of Kleerup-closing “I Just Want to Make That Sad Boy Smile” (sorry, anyone reading this hoping for a Yung Lean tie-in). Kleerup’s serviceable coo fails to catch a spark in the title track’s vocoder-brooding duet with the Sounds’ Maja Ivarsson, as the two exchange generic phrases (“I’ll never let you down / I’ll keep on breaking down/ Signed, sealed, whatever”). Most perplexing of all is the finale, “Thank God for Sending Demons”, a hoarse-voiced acoustic dirge that shares its title with a 2011 song by another Kleerup band, Me and My Army, but isn’t a recognizable cover. At some point along the six degrees of separation, a true sense of connection has been lost.
Kleerup was, however, wise to use the mini-album format. The setting has recently been good to artists from the Knife and Röyksopp / Robyn to Best Coast, and it’s a reasonable length for a Kleerup release in an era when there’s no need to fill out an entire CD (my CD version of the first album isn’t even that old, yet my computer can’t play it anymore—MP3s prevail!). But the lack of time to get lost in a record’s particular world makes it all the more important to have songs that resonate in their own right. Kleerup has been busier than you might’ve thought since 2008—along with the folk-leaning Me and My Army, he released a Sweden-only Kleerup full-length, 2012’s Aniara—so it’s possible he’s saving his best stuff for the next mini-album. For now, those interested in hearing the most essential post-Kleerup Kleerup music should probably go back to his production for Robyn on “In My Eyes”, from 2010’s Body Talk: “You put your dancing shoes on, and you do it again.” Or, you know, kick off your Sunday shoes, whatever.
from Album Reviews – Pitchfork http://ift.tt/1wx18JL