Stockholm’s Shout Out Louds hit the ground running with their sophomore release, Our Ill Wills, a powerful and enjoyable collection of winning tunes. Produced by Bjorn Yttling of Swedish indie-pop mega-hit Peter Bjorn and John, this follow-up to the Shout Out Louds’ well-received 2005 debut, Howl Howl Gaff Gaff, would seem to have everything going for it, everything to push the band over the top and into the next level of ‘Swedish Invasion’ status. And Our Ill Wills does that and more, leapfrogging everyone from PB&J to ABBA as the band combines their wonderfully infectious danceability with everything from raw emotion to catchy grooves.
The already-released first single “Tonight I Have To Leave It” opens up Our Ill Wills on a high note, an expansive, orchestral number that is meaningful without being overwrought, featuring classic Adam Olenius vocals – and cowbell… That power is effortlessly carried over into the next two tracks, where the Shout Out Louds use it to show their range. “Parents Livingroom” is much softer, more heart-rending, with a perfect chorus line, wisely not messing things up by trying to throw too much into the mix. Yet another room is explored in “You Are Dreaming”, a darker, even angry tale of disappointment (“Where were you when we called the police? / … / No, you were in Portugal / So don’t come back to Stockholm no more”), flowing well, with jungle drums.
All three songs show a remarkable expanse, while still displaying variety, the hallmark of this record’s high points, such as middle tracks “Impossible” and “Normandie”. “Impossible” plays more atmospheric in its softness, yet still catchy, with nice ‘wooden xylophone’-like beats and chorus vocals from Bebban Stenborg. But if you really want catchy Swedish indie-pop, look no further than the beaches of “Normandie”, its simple beat and tambourines very reminiscent of Peter Bjorn and John, but possessing a purpose that in many ways sets it ahead of their fellow Scandinavians. The end of the Our Ill Wills also features the band’s growing power in “Time Left For Love” and finisher “Hard Rain”. “Time” could be the second single, heart-felt yet matter-of-fact in its lyrics that cover losing friends in an accident, serial killers, and more, never veering too emo or too monotone in its grand sweep. But the biggest sweep of all has to be the driving “Hard Rain”, perfect as an ender as it displays more of an Anglo-expanse, and subdued dueling Olenius-Stenborg vocals.
The rest of Our Ill Wills is filled with a few not-quite-as-good attempts at what really worked, and interesting but limited changes that aren’t as necessary on an album that changes so effortlessly. “Suit Yourself” reads like a slightly cloying version of “Parents Livingroom”, while “South America” (this is a band that likes its geography, from titles & lyrics to naval flags on the cover) comes off as a brighter – but not as grand – “Time Left For Love”. Stenborg plays at small, sweet, and folksy on “Blue Headlights”, and Olenius at so-quiet-you-can-hear-the-frets on “Meat Is Murder”, but both lack some ambition, which is even more the case with the sub-two minutes-long instrumental, “Ill Wills”.
Our Ill Wills isn’t a departure from Howl Howl Gaff Gaff – it’s an evolution, faster and bigger, bringing the Shout Out Louds’ sound to the next stage of development. Yttling – the so-called ‘sixth member’ of the five-person group – may just have produced the record to pay back Shout Out bassist Ted Malmros for directing the video for Peter Bjorn and John’s hit single, “Young Folks” (for which Malmros won a ‘Grammi’ – yes, that is what the Swedes call their version of The Grammys…), but he’s presided over a record of a band not just finding their place, but putting down their flag and waving it proudly. If Peter Bjorn and John were the Swedish Invasion’s expeditionary force, the Shout Out Louds are the cavalry.
MP3 Stream: “Normandie”