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Loney, Dear @ Club Lambi

Posted by Trixie / June 8, 2007

Loney, Dear is the name of Swedish singer/songwriter Emil Svanängen’s band. For awhile I mistakenly read the name as “Lonely, Dear” and found the poignant little phrase sweetly compelling as far as band monikers go.

What “Loney, Dear” signifies, I have no idea. But my hunch about the band was correct. They—well, he, since, as I understand it, the project is Svanängen’s and he brings in a backing band to tour but not to record—make for a sweetly compelling show.

Svanängen’s music has a lush, tuneful, darling quality that is kinda like Brian Wilson getting together with Belle & Sebastian (if that makes it sound awkward and pretentious, well it’s not; if that makes it sound amazing, well it’s not quite that either).

This is dreamy but sometimes urgent pop: a creature long domesticated but still spirited. It can make you want to dance, but out of high spirits rather than an aroused pelvic region.

A nice moment occurred when, surprisingly, a few patrons were moved to dance during the layered, building, exuberant hit tune “I Am John.” It was just so pleasing to witness them jump up and resolutely shimmy, for the set-up of Club Lambi meant that the somewhat sparse audience was set back from the stage and for the most part seated. Dancing seemed prohibitive unless we all went for it en masse, and the lovely soft ballads that had heretofore dominated the set obviously didn’t beckon us to do so.

Nor, I would have thought, would a breezy-but-complicated up-tempo number, catchy as it is. But the swelling sounds and rhythm proved irresistible to a brave few, and for my part I felt that giddying elevation of mood that the best pop music inspires: when you find yourself grinning helplessly all the while with a lump in your throat and butterflies in your tummy.

Svanängen’s songs are touching without being particularly sad—as far as I can tell, he sings of heartbreak, disappointment and confusion, but from the point of view not of a tortured soul (this is no Bergmanesque Swede here), but a pretty boy.

Which is made more interesting by the fact that Svanängen is not exactly a pretty boy, though he is damn endearing, working the delightfully self-deprecating and baffled foreigner with idiosyncratic English thing (“To this song I recommend that you—what do you call it? Pair-dance? No…partner dance, maybe?” Pair-dance! Aw! Too cute!!!) and I can’t help but think that he’s the kind of fella who travels far on charm.

(My friend learned to say in German “I speak your language but as a child.” He got laid plenty in his Germanic travels, and often had German girlfriends, and I bet this phrase alone had a lot to do with it.)

Of course, Svanängen is plenty talented to boot, but then charm is a talent, isn’t it?

Svanängen’s voice is singular while also seeming perfectly, generically pop. It charms with a wavery vibrato and meandering line delivery that is recognizably lo-fi, but it is also sharp and bright and moves with ease into a high register that is remarkably controlled and just this side of strident. Listening to the album, I assumed the high vocal parts came from another source—perhaps a wonky-voiced teen girl—but onstage Svanängen demonstrates how impressively he rocks the falsetto.

Certainly Loney, Dear put on a very buoyant and winning show with some awful sweet and often stirring pop music. I kept thinking that this should absolutely be someone’s favorite band, even if it’s not mine. Admittedly, I was more or less moved on a song-to-song basis, but the really great moments were great indeed, and the overall pop persuasion of it would be pretty hard to resist.

Photo from Flickr user Jari Kaariainen



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