Review Summary: Massive group of Swedes put together one of the most likeable and accessible Indie Pop records of ’06.
I always admire three-piece bands. If nothing else, they’re very thrifty. Everyone’s doing something, and some are doing two things. Four- and five-piece bands are great, too. I always thought six was a bit much though, but they can work. Twenty-nine? Twenty-fking-nine
? Now that’s just silly. But there’s something about the way the 29 members of I’m From Barcelona
go about their business that makes it hard to dislike them. At times, Let Me Introduce My Friends
sounds like a big bunch of people having a great time, with music merely the by-product. And that’s where this band comes in to its own. The music is simple, catchy and often sublimely melodious, yet above all else, it’s fun and feel-good. The lyrics are unashamedly simple and unpretentious, the musicianship is far from dexterous and the overall sound is effortlessly uncomplicated. The sum of the parts is a memorable collection of very poppy Indie songs that is hard not to enjoy.
There’s something about feel-good music. Admittedly, most of it isn’t enduring, classic stuff, and a hell of a lot of it is Pop music. I can’t be totally certain where Let Me Introduce My Friends
stands on the former, but on the latter, it’s pretty much as close to Pop as Indie can get. This is really poppy Indie Pop. Not Arctic Monkeys
or The Kooks
. We’re talking the poppiness of Architecture in Helsinki
and the harmonies of Blonde Redhead
. The group vocals (with, I assume, 29 voices at once) are undeniably one of the highlights of the album, led adroitly by the alluring dulcet tones of Emanuel Lundgren on tracks like Barcelona Loves You
and the eclectic gem Chicken Pox
. The lyrics of the latter are some of the strongest on the album, almost unbelievably effective in their simplicity. As Lundgren explains that certain diseases can only be caught once, the lead line of “You can’t have it once you’ve had it
” caps off a brilliantly suggestive take on the pain of love. It’s yet another example of the simplicity of the lyrics on the album - most of the songs have one verse and one chorus which are repeated, resulting in many songs having just six or eight lines of lyrics. It’s the album’s simplicity which is one of its greatest strengths.
Let Me Introduce My Friends
is unquestionably a consistent album, with no poor tracks and the sentiment - that of a fun and carefree attitude - successfully carried throughout each of the 11 tracks. Oversleeping
kicks the album off in appropriate style, with its subdued verses contrasting with the rolling choruses, all the while showcasing a diverse mix of instruments, including kazoos, banjos, bells, xylophones and God knows what else. Mimicking the vocal line on what sounds like a glockenspiel or a xylophone, or whatever, works brilliantly and the group vocals are again prominent. Collection Of Stamps
uses vocal harmonies effectively without using words, which in this case isn’t necessarily a bad thing - the lyrics are, well, ridiculous. They speak of a collection of stamps, quite literally. “I’ve got one from Spain and two from Japan
” etc. etc. Whatever. Anyway, it takes the appropriately-titled We’re From Barcelona
to really get the album going, and this more moderate, relaxed - almost child-like music (see Architecture in Helsinki
) - is three minutes of mellow Indie Pop bliss. The na na na
backing vocals support the flowing drum beat exceptionally, as the dreamy feeling of not only the album but the band in general is summarised here. The horns are integrated to the song to add yet another layer to the already full sound. But it’s the imagery of the exceptional Treehouse
that provides probably the album highlight. The absorbed and charismatic vocal lines initially draw the attention, but there are enough layers here to maintain interest for much longer than you’d originally expect. The repeated chorus only becomes more alluring with the addition of Beach Boys
-style harmonies and an a cappella
break which yet again changes the tempo effectively. It’s a five-minute song, and the last three minutes is only the chorus. It works.
One of the most attractive aspects of the band is the communal feel they manage to portray in just about every song. There is a sense that you
could be doing this. After all, with 29 band members, surely some mustn’t be doing that much. This sentiment is probably best captured in the lyrics of We’re From Barcelona
“I'm gonna sing this song with all of my friends
I'm from Barcelona
Love is a feeling that we don't understand
But we're gonna give it to ya.
We'll aim for the stars
We'll aim for your heart when the night comes
And we'll bring you love
You'll be one of us when the night comes.
This is carried through to the surprisingly catchy Barcelona Loves You
which further emphasises the feel-good, fun attitude of the band and theme of the album. For an native English speaker like myself, the little imperfections in these Swedes’ accents and some of the word orders of the lyrics provide another reason to smile. The Swedish accent’s a great one, and lines like “If I skip to wear clothes
) just add something to the lyrics. I think it’s pretty cool listening to people sing/reading people’s lyrics in a second language. The sense of this band crossing boundaries is encapsulated throughout the album, with a truly familiar aspect to just about every song.
I’m From Barcelona
show that too many cooks don’t necessarily spoil the broth, as they successfully export their accommodating, fun, happy, almost caring attitude to their debut LP. This is a huge bunch of friends just having a good time, and we’re more than welcome to listen in. Let Me Introduce My Friends
is somewhere between The Shins
-style Indie and dreamy, seemingly nostalgic Pop music. But don’t get me wrong - while there are certain similarities to other bands, I’m From Barcelona
is as unique a prospect as you’ll get, and Let Me Introduce My Friends
is just about as good a collection of songs you could ask 29 people to produce. Perhaps many hands do make light work.
We’re From Barcelona
Barcelona Loves You