Peter Bjorn and John, Living Thing (Wichita, 2009)
A few years ago, Peter Bjorn and John had that song "Young Folks," with the whistling and the vaguely hip-hop-like beat. Kanye sampled it on one of his mixtapes.
Not much of a song, now is this? It's just the guy singing, "There's something in the air. Can you feel it?" ad nauseum, over a weird vocal sample and some handclaps. It's like Phil Collins' "In the Air Tonight," except it's not a classic.
IT DON'T MOVE ME
Much more along the lines of "Young Folks," which is what I like to hear. It's got a very similar bass line and lead vocal, but it's not nearly as catchy. I guess they didn't want to incorporate a sample of someone whistling. That would have been too obvious.
JUST THE PAST
I was getting a nice Peter Gabriel feeling from the vaguely furrin-sounding production at the very beginning. But this doesn't end up developing into very much. I see what's going on - this is the "challenging second album" that no one's gonna give a shit about, but five years later a few people will say it was better than the much-loved debut.
NOTHING TO WORRY ABOUT
Ah, the catchy as fuck lead single. You might have heard it back when Kanye ordered his secretary Marcus to post it to his blog. It's not catchy in the sense that it's actually brilliant. It's catchy in the sense that they obviously spent a significant amount of time in a room going, "What's the most ridonkulously obnoxious ear worm we could possibly come up with?" Don't get me wrong - I crank this when it comes on Sirius XMU. I'm just saying.
I'M LOSING MY MIND
I was worried for a second this might be some sort of experiment with Chinese music, but it turns out that was just the intro. The rest of this is just PB&J's attempt at going "deep," which is to say a little bit too high. This must be what that one Lil Wayne mixtape that even Tom Breihan didn't like was like.
And now, the moment of truth. Is this album's title track a cover of the classic ELO record, or just some ol' bullshit. Normally, when I say that, it's just a joke, but this really is a cover of the ELO record. Kinda. The chorus really does go, "It's a living thing, it's a terrible thing to lose." Ha! The rest of it is another one of these ones that calls to mind some of Peter Gabriel of somebody's mid '80s experiment with African music. I bet they got the idea from listening to that Vampire Weekend album. Maybe someone from the label suggested it.
I WANT YOU!
The thing is, it'd probably be impossible for these guys to sing something and have it not be at least somewhat catchy. The Swedish are just catchy singers like that. But this album just doesn't have the hooks of that first album, and I'm not convinced it's because they were going for something a bit more challenging.
LAY IT DOWN
I like the way they've employed cursing here.
STAY THIS WAY
The most stripped down song on an album that's pretty barren. It's mostly just finger snaps and extra-sappy romantic vocals.
BLUE PERIOD PICASSO
This one sounds like it could be on the soundtrack to Sixteen Candles or some shit. There's even mention of a Japanese tourist.
4 OUT OF 5
Skipped this one to write the last paragraph and be done with it. It didn't sound like much.
Last niiight, she saiiid, oh baby I feel so down. And I don't know why.
COMMENTS: I'll give credit where credit is due. Peter Bjorn and John could have made another album along the lines of their first album and gotten a lot of people to like them and made a shedload of money and so on and so forth, but they had the balls to do something different. They went dark with this one. There isn't a "Young Folks" to be found. Which is too bad, as far as I'm concerned.
BEST TRACKS: "It Don't Move Me" "Nothing to Worry About" "Living Thing"