Shout Out Louds are back at work. It only just dawned on them what the rest of us have known for a long time. They were born to do this. This is what they do. They write songs, record them and tour. That's their work. Hence Work (Merge), the album title of their third album.
They've had some time off. A six-month break to regroup, see other things, places and people. Work on a tan, work on love and life. Keyboard/vocalist Bebban Sternborg did so in Los Angeles and singer/mainsongwriter Adam Olenius in Melbourne, Australia. Guitarist Carl von Arbin, bassist Ted Malmros and drummer Eric Edman remained in Stockholm. And when they got together again they knew that this is what they do, and that this is what they will continue to do. You don't know what you've got til it's in Melbourne sort of thing...
Olenius wrote many songs down there, in a tiny room, with a little synthesizer, an acoustic guitar and garageband on his laptop. He passed them on to the others who listened closely from their corners of the world, questioning and challenging him - like a good band should - until the songs that make up Work had all passed the test, made the cut and lived to tell the story...
The song "Walls" came first and then the rest, one by one, brick by brick if you will, whilst the Australian trams passed by outside. It's interesting though, how the last album Our Ill Wills, (Merge) was all about travel - from the song titles down to the flags that braced the cover. This one may be written in Melbourne, recorded in Seattle, and for the first time with a non-Swede in the producer seat, but this is the coming home one. The one where they decide to keep it simple, lose the percussionist. To sack the string quartet, trust the songs. Or as Olenius puts it in one of those songs: "Throwing stones, they´re rolling home." It happened just like that. All pieces found their natural place.
They got Seattleite Phil Ek to produce the album, and they describe him as a well- needed force. They wanted someone who was used to working with bands, and used to doing things the old-fashioned way - by hard work and 1, 2, 3, 4 live recordings. Fleet Foxes, Band of Horses and The Shins are fine testaments of Phil Ek´s latest producer work ethic, and so he seemed a natural choice.
Olenius also says this album and the way it sounds is down to a few things: Firstly, he is in a better place in his life. There may still be dark skies, but lately they're only partly cloudy. In the words of Mary J. Blige: no more drama. And perhaps with the change of weather came the realization that there really is no need to multilayer everything and fill all the spaces with stuff. Significant points have been made with little more to back them than an honest attempt to keep things organic, unadorned, to the point. (A revisit to John Cale's albums may have played a little part in it all, if we're being fair.) It all may sound quite simple, and that's the point. But simple is rarely that. Simple can be awfully complicated in all it's plainness, and countless are we who have tried to hide our simplicity behind overdubs, mysterious press releases, animals masks and fabulous-looking graphics.
Shout Out Louds may have left out the bunny ears, but just as the rest of us they're definitely guilty of one or two of the other misdemeanors on that list. Well, not anymore. They're keeping it simple now, trusting in the power of bare skin over panache. At the end of the day, it's work, and they are happy to do it. And for that we are truly thankful.