The Mary Onettes – Islands

  • Cole Faulkner posted
  • Reviews

The Mary Onettes

Islands - Labrador Records

Oh Swedish pop, does your lofty ambitions and contagious melancholy melodies know no bounds?  Actually, despite everyone’s general enthusiasm for the soft cloudy Swedish indie melodies I’ve never really warmed up to the bands that dominate Sweden’s indie staple, Labrador Records.  The Radio Dept. is too forgettable, Sambassadeur and Little Big Adventure almost put me to sleep, and the one I should like, Legends, is covered in a blanket of noise that I just can’t get into.  Personally I think that Swedish pop bands tend to lose themselves amidst the stars a little too easily.  But then I was given the pleasure of listen to The Mary Onettes sophmore album, Islands, and I was finally given the chance to dance in the clouds with some Swedes like everyone else.

What sets the Swedish four-piece apart from other dream pop fixtures is their distinct sense of direction.  Rather than getting lost in the ambient and glowing backdrop, they command its course.  Actually, in many ways their combination of soaring, atmospheric vocals and towering synth tones feel almost removed from their peers.  A better comparison might be found somewhere amidst 80’s inspired The Cure and 2009’s dark synth revivalists White Lies.  Even so, the light tinging of bells and drawing out of beats into the ambience make for a distinct shoegazing experience that reinforce their roots.

Islands itself is a fun journey that’s easy to get into and altogether captivating.  While writing this review I’ve had to stop the music entirely on several occasions because of the album’s power to draw me in pleasantly serenade me to slumber.  I could describe focus tracks like “Century” and mention the seamless combination of plucked strings, R.E.M.-like acoustic guitars, and powerful but not overbearing drum beats, but that would take away from the thread of continuity weaving the album together.  Islands is just one of those albums at which point you reach the end and wonder where the time went.  From the shimmering opener “Puzzles” to the slower journey making up “Whatever Saves Me,” each song holds a purpose, even if it might not immediately present itself.

Some may view the level of continuity as an abuse of repetition within a closed formula, but I never found Islands dragging.  Still, I suppose it is an avenue for growth seeing how imitation comes to mind more than originality when listening to The Mary Onettes.

Overall though, The Mary Onettes wield a tight command over their loose and lofty influences, making this an enjoyable and easily appreciable Swedish export.