Peter Bjorn and John
Endless Dream (INGRID)
Indie pop trio Peter Bjorn and John has always sounded like The Beatles would have if they’d gotten together after the rise of hip-hop music.
Rappers have obviously taken notice. DJ Mick Boogie reimagined the Swedish trio’s 2009 LP Living Thing as Re-Living Thing and brought along legendary emcees like GZA, Talib Kweli, Buckshot and Evidence for the occasion.
The group’s ninth studio album, Endless Dream, premiered on March 13, and features 10 fun tracks that bring enough of that hip-hop essence to whet the appetite of crate diggers hungry for songs to grind up and repurpose into beats. Fans of the band will also likely be happy with the latest effort.
The band says in a press release Endless Dream is brighter in tone than their previous LP, 2018’s Darker Days. And they are probably right, even if the latest album never reaches the bubbly heights of “Young Folks,” the band’s melodic, whistle-driven best known single. And, let’s be honest, most of their output is pretty bright in tone.
Without delving too deep into the lyrical content, Darker Days, with it’s triangle of broken bones cover art and lyrics like “There’s a million ways to die under a velvet sky” treks into darker territory more than the new album. Even the sonic textures on Darker Days, plucky as they are, do come off a bit gloomy in mood at times.
The latest album, however, has three purple mountains on the cover and a trio of dwarfed musicians stopping at a cliff’s edge to take a gander. It evokes a happy Sunday afternoon hike in an open space. The album was recorded in Sweden. Perhaps things are sunnier in The Elongated Country than here in The States.
And it’s a solid effort throughout.
Endless Dreams opens with a track simply called “Music” that is ostensibly about music —“Music on the windscreen of my dreams … It’s got to be all or nothing at all … Turn it up and I’ll be there.” The punchy guitar and piano melody sets the tone for the nine tracks that follow.
Highlights include the squawking guitar and “who, who, who” vocal hits of “Rusty Nail,” the jaunty ascending melody and clean guitar tones in “Weekend,” the false starts at the beginning of “Simple Song of Sin.” The chord progression on “Endless Reruns” wouldn’t feel out of place if The Cure used it, and the experimental “Idiosyncrasy” conjures a fever dream and is the weirdest track on the album.
If it’s not overtly in PBJ’s sound, the band definitely shares hip-hop’s joie de vivre. Something about it calls for hands to be thrown up in the air. Perhaps it’s John Eriksson’s break beat-inspired drumming or the minimalist guitar and synth melodies that, even if the band plays catchy indie pop tunes, are reminiscent of the boom bap rhythms of hip hop’s Golden Age. The arrangements recall sequencing on hip hop tracks, as elements come in and drop out and come in, and little melodic snippets of guitar and synth or quick drum breaks seem ready to be snatched up in an MPC. If the opening bars of “On the Brink,” the final track on Endless Dream hasn’t been flipped into a hip-hop track by the end of the week, it will be surprising.
Peter Bjorn and John aren’t breaking any new ground on Endless Dream, but the 10 tracks will please fans who’ve been waiting, er, a little more than a year for a follow up to Darker Days. And the band’s sound is always kind of soothing and would be a welcome addition to the playlist of anyone needing solace in the bleak near future year that 2020 is shaping up to be.