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Jonathan Johansson

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Just a few years ago, the term Swedish pop was more or less synonymous with the 1960s: chipper hooks, throwback arrangements, turtlenecks, and soft-focus album covers. But in a very short time, the country’s indie output— at least as perceived from these shores— seems to have advanced two decades, with acts like the Legends and Pacific! finding inspiration in the sounds of the early 1980s. In this regard, Jonathan Johansson is a new romantic, but not necessarily a New Romantic. He doesn’t dress outlandishly or portray himself as particularly androgynous, but that label (those two words divorced of their pop-historical meaning) nicely sum up the bruised emotionalism and chilly synthcraft of his Swedish-language debut, En hand i himlen (which translates roughly to “A Hand in Heaven”). On these ten songs, he sounds resolutely downcast, but with a stubborn optimism only a true romantic could feel, with his heart on his sleeve and heavy thoughts on his mind. In reviving these old sounds, Johansson locates a compelling paradox: His music communicates emotions so acute they can be conveyed only with the most coldly mechanistic instruments available.

Johansson and multi-instrumentalist Johan Eckeborn erect an enormous wall of electronic sound on En hand i himlen, with each song demonstrating new tricks. The title track is densely layered around an “and” beat snare pattern, building into soaring choruses and fading away into softer verses.

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