Up-and-coming Swedish indie pop band Marching Band is about to emerge on the indie music scene with their debut album Spark Large. Already gaining recognition in the U.S., including appearances at Pitchfork, Second Stage, and Billboard’s Underground, the duo of Jacob Lind and Erik Sunbring seem to already have a good thing going. The question is, will this album give them a stronger hold in the larger music arena?
Producer Jari Haapalainen has a keen ear for airy voices, producing bands like Camera Obscura, which boasts a lead singer with a unique harmonic voice and instruments that help add to its wistful songs – a similarity shared with Marching Band. One could say Marching Band is a soft Swedish version of Vampire Weekend with its harmonies and unique instrument combinations, such as vibraphones and banjos. However, since some critics have been less enthused with Vampire Weekend’s second album Contra, which didn’t stray far from their debut album, I wonder how, with their similar sound, Marching Band will do in the future.
Marching Band’s unique rhythms, light guitar strums and the airy harmonies of Lind and Sunbring consume almost all of the band’s songs, particularly in “Gorgeous Behavior” and “Feel Good About It.” Ultimately, the album’s songs express a common theme of “feeling good.” The lyrics consist primarily of living, loving or liking – whatever you may call it. This is seen in “Feel Good About It” when they sing, “I’ll call you on the phone, make no plans tomorrow.” For songs such as in “Aggravate,” which have slightly less optimistic lyrics – “These are the things that keep him sane. These are the things that aggravate. Some fall asleep and don’t awake.” – light instrumentation makes up for the notes of minor pessimism.
The lyrics are somewhat simplistic, but the problems are overshadowed by the soft harmonies and overwhelming instrumentation. However, this is not enough to fully revive the album whose harmonies can be redundant, such as those on “Sparkle.” The overall makeup of the album is too coherent. Listening to its songs individually, one can hear the unique sounds and appreciate its composition, but the tunes can become a blur or, at points, insignificant compared to the whole of it.
Swedish pop has secured a place in the indie pop scene. Yet there is a downside to this. In the end, they start to sound the same, even within each individual album. What can set them apart in the future should be the focus. For Marching Band, that means less pop, more electronics and beats, and songs that express a greater variety of complex emotions. One example is the path Peter Bjorn and John took in their most recent album Living Things. While they took a unique step with their first hit “Young Folks” and its use of whistling, they kicked it up a notch with electronics and the use of sounds in their single “Nothing to Worry About” in the following album. The talent is definitely here, and here’s hoping a spark for something more is in the works.