released May 18th, 2010
from the album - Western Hospitality
from all music
Formed in 1995, Club 8 became one of the pillars of Sweden’s pop scene with a string of melodic, eclectic albums. Members Karolina Komstedt and Johan Angergård had previously worked together in the band Poprace, and their new group — which began as a recording project before growing into a full-fledged touring band — explored everything from bossa nova to trip-hop. Pop always remained at the center of Club 8's sound, though, and Angergård made additional contributions to Swedish music by helping run a respected indie label, Labrador Records, and logging time in several different bands.
Komstedt and Angergård recorded their first three songs in 1995. After fielding offers from several labels, the two decided to partner with Siesta, a Spanish label, for the release of their debut single, "Me Too." A full-length album, Nouvelle, followed in 1996. Both releases sported an animated twee pop sound, but the band’s second album — 1998’s The Friend I Once Had — found Club 8 stretching their wings by incorporating elements of dance music. One year later, the musicians headed overseas to make their live debut at the CMJ Festival in New York, which spread Club 8's music to a new continent.
Now releasing albums on an international level (and touring in support of them, too), Club 8 continued tinkering with different influences throughout the early 2000s. A self-titled album appeared in 2001 and earned comparisons to Portishead's work, while 2002’s Spring Came, Rain Fell was even more experimental and electronic, due in no small part to the construction of the band’s own recording studio. After releasing Strangely Beautiful in 2003, Club 8 took a small break as Angergård turned his attention to a new solo project, the Legends, and working with Acid House Kings, a band that featured former Poprace member Joakim Ödlund as well as Johan’s brother Niklas Angergård.
Eventually returning to the Club 8 fold, he and Komstedt recorded their sixth album, The Boy Who Couldn’t Stop Dreaming, and released it during the autumn of 2007. After taking another break (during which they absorbed the musical cultures of Brazil and West Africa), the duo recorded its seventh album, The People's Record, in 2009. Released in May of 2010, the record marked the first time Club 8 worked with an outside producer (Jari Haapalainen).
While Club 8 has always maintained a pretty steady sound and identity as a dreamily melancholy band, the half of the duo responsible for the music has pursued a more unpredictable path in his solo project, the Legends. On each of their records Johan Angergård has been like a musical sponge soaking up his current interest, whether it was noise pop, synth pop, or post-punk, and then re-creating it with uncanny precision. Up until now, there have only been hints of this skill in Club 8’s output. That all changes on their 2010 release The People’s Record, which shows the result of Angergård and Club 8’s vocalist Karolina Komstedt’s discovery of, and subsequent love for, West African pop of the late '60s and '70s. Unlike their contemporaries who use African sounds as a flavoring device, the duo immerses themselves fully in the sound right down to the tone of the organ. Angergård’s guitar work in particular is authentic to the point where it’s hard to believe he hasn’t been playing in this style for years. While you could be cynical and say this embrace of such a hip reference point was a marketing ploy of some kind, it’s hard to listen to the joy and energy that come bursting out of the grooves and see it as anything other than a labor of love. You could also doubt that they could make it all work, given the detached and cool feel of past Club 8 records, but somehow Komstedt’s airy and sweet vocals sound perfect when blended with the warm-as-the-sun rhythms, bubbling guitars, and wonderfully cheesy organ. It helps that these are some of the best songs they’ve written: "Western Hospitality," "Shape Up!," and "We’re All Going to Die" would be good even if played on toy pianos and recorders. The uptempo songs are full of life and happiness, the few slow songs have a subdued grace that is trademark Club 8, and when taken together, they add up to the band’s best record to date. Certainly it’s the record that takes the most chances and has the most highly developed sense of adventure; that it succeeds so fully is a mark of both the note-perfect production, Angergård’s musical abilities, and Komstedt’s enchanting and surprisingly soulful vocals. Oh, and the songs!
1 Western Hospitality
2 Isn’t That Great?
3 Shape Up!
4 Dancing with the Mentally Ill
5 My Pessimistic Heart
6 Back to A
7 Like Me
8 Be Mad, Get Ill, Be Still
9 We’re All Going to Die
10 The People Speak