This one came as a complete surprise – I’ve been spinning the album repeatedly waiting for it to wear thin on me, but it’s come up as a total winner.
El Perro Del Mar is the project of Swedish pop songwriter and singer Sarah Assbring – she has previous albums in her discography, but for whatever reason I hadn’t run into her before.
First, the upfront confessions: I only actually gave this album (entitled Love Is Not Pop) a go due to its production being handled by Rasmus Hägg (one half of the esteemed electronic group Studio), being mildly curious to hear what sort of treatment a pop singer/songwriter would get in these sorts of hands.
As it turns out it’s an extraordinarily low-key treatment: mellow, lush and completely captivating. It’s sonic nature straddles a balance between the organic and the artificial and comes across as sounding like a truly authentic production. There’s little in the way of distracting studio manipulations, studio trickery or gimmicks – it’s an album of straightforward songs presented with a healthy amount of care taken to the presentation of the sonic layers that bring them to life.
Nearly all of the instruments on the album were played by the artist and producer. There’s a pleasant unrefined, personal edge that comes from this – the instruments are obviously being played by people with less technical skill than musical skill and, as a result, instead of robotic session players we get far from perfect but thoroughly enjoyable performances. Take the drums on “Change of Heart” for example – they’re full of inadvisably cluttered playing, flirting dangerously close to completely falling out of time, but they’re completely human and organic and all the richer for it. I smile every time I hear it.
Much of the playing is simple but completely intentional – the synths, the guitars, the pianos, the drums – all obviously played by people that know what their musical intuitions want to see realised. The sound and mix are tastefully reminiscent of 70s production: lots of dry, upfront bass and drum sounds, with reverb and delays liberally applied to vocals, guitars and synths.
I’m getting off track – but rest assured, there’s plenty to unearth for production geeks – but as for the songs, they’re simple songs of (yep) love, and they do their job of suiting the mood perfectly. Sarah’s vocals are lovely and lowkey and do a great job of bringing the emotion to life.
I’ve said enough. I like it a lot (surprise!). Despite its surprisingly short length (7 tracks, with 3 solid bonus remixes for Aussies) it’s a satisfying listen and one that seems to bear out repeated ones at that. Good things comes in unexpected packages!
El Perro Del Mar was recently in the country (which I missed, sadly). Roanna from Those Walls, Your Ears covered one of her Sydney shows which apparently didn’t see a lot of punters didn’t turn up, which is a shame.
The album’s out and in stores via Inertia, as of mid last month.