Swedish indie-pop gets sweeter thanks to Mrs. El Perro del Mar, Sarah Assbring, on her third full-length, From the Valley to the Stars. The Gothenburg native has been making music as El Perro del Mar (“the dog of the sea” in Spanish) for a few years now, first compiled in Look! It’s El Perro del Mar in 2003, then following it up with the strictly self-titled El Perro del Mar in 2006. Now, with a record not named after her, she throws more Casiotone into the mix.
From the Valley opens with the short, pretty synth-choral intro “Jubilee”, before going into the sunny song about clouds, “Glory to the World”. Assbring seems to be sporting a recorder, or some sort of reed, in “World” and elsewhere on the record, but it’s the keys that take center stage throughout. At sixteen tracks, From the Valley is chock full of stuff, but sometimes pieces can feel too alike; such as the following “You Can’t Steal a Gift”. “How Did We Forget?” stands out thanks to it sadder air, nice flow, and great horns. After the little piano ditty of “Inside the Golden Egg” and simple Casio progression, “To Give Love”, comes the quiet in sound, loud in meaning “Inner Island”. “Do Not Despair”, another restrained piece, has a ‘sad times, but chin-up’ air to it.
But on “Somebody’s Baby”, Assbring goes for the fun, delivering a catchy girl-group bop (with a song this winning, one can be forgiven for wishing she’d have shown more of this side on From the Valley). Short, sweet tracks and keyboard instrumentals pepper the rest of the record, but mixed in are pieces of choral beauty like the wafting “Happiness Won Me Over”, and the wistful indie-pop of “Into the Sunshine”. The record finishes with the quiet, airy, country-procession “Your Name Is Neverending”, which catches in its beat.
Back in Sweden, Assbring jumped to Licking Fingers last year, home of fellow Scando-indie-pop songstresses The Concretes (QRO album review), and there’s definitely more keyboard indie-pop on this record, as opposed to the more alt-country stylings of her previous El Perro del Mar’s. But whatever the era of the instrument, whatever the nation, she’s got a sweet sound that can’t be denied.