Twenty years since their formation, Swedish quartet Acid House Kings have returned with just their sixth record. Their seemingly leisurely output can be partially attributed to their alleged game plan of releasing a record once every five years since 1992, supposedly inspired by Felt’s 10 albums in 10 years plan at least according to the bio on their website. Brothers Johan and Niklas Angergård and Joakim Ödlund formed the poorly (and apparently ironically) named group in 1991, adding “former guest vocalist and present sister-in-law” Julia Lannerheim as a full-time member in 2002. In addition, they’ve been busy with day jobs, personal lives and other musical projects, including Johan’s duo with fellow Swede Karolina Komstedt (from Poprace), Club 8 and his management of the independent record label Labrador, which has served as a Petri dish for much of the twee indie pop to emerge from the land of meatballs and lingonberries
ABBA are not Sweden’s only musical export; consider: Roxette, Ace Of Base, Robyn, The Cardigans, The Hives, and those are just a few with better name recognition.Loney, Dear, Radio Dept., The Concretes, Taken By Trees, Sambassadeur, The Mary Onettes, Pelle Carlberg, Those Dancing Days and the aforementioned Club 8 have all been part of the recent Swedish indie-pop wave. Given all that, it’s frustrating that Acid House Kings never seem to get their proper due.
Perhaps their lack of respect is due to their irrelevant moniker; this music has nothing to do with acid, house or acid house, and they seem to be way too meek and cute to bear the title of kings. This is not Spinal Tap’s “The Majesty of Rock,” after all. Acid House Kings make sunny orchestral pop like only the Swedes can, with Beach Boys via ABBA vocals and catchy acoustic guitar jangles flourished with horns, woodwinds, handclaps, maracas and castanets. Lannerheim’s smiling soprano recalls the simplicity of the ’60s girl groups, and her breathy delivery is a nice counterpoint to Johan’s delightfully amateurish and adenoidal tenor vocals.
Just as all songs by The Wedding Present are about love, all Acid House Kings songs are about the seasons, most notably their favorite season, summer. Not for nothing was an early compilation entitled Sounds of Summer and their recording studio christened Summersound (also the name of Johan’s original label)—they’ve spent most of their recording career capturing summery sounds on record, and Music Sounds Better With You is no exception. Perhaps it’s because summer ends so soon in Sweden that they spend their studio sessions obsessed with selecting moments to summarize, most apparently on “Windshield” and “Where Have We Been?”
When the Kings aren’t singing about summer directly, there’s a wonderful wistfulness that seems to say, “Let’s hold hands and run outside, and run about aimlessly in the meadow.”
Although the record begins with Johan singing “I know that summer’s gone again,” their jaunty, warm approach is never in doubt throughout: “I almost forget we’re gonna die,” he concludes on “Are We Lovers Or Are We Friends?” Thus, even when the songs are not about summer, they seem to be about a longing for summer to come.
Indeed, when the songs are stuck inside the corner office as in “(I’m in) A Chorus Line,” Lannerheim sings that from her window she can catch “a tiny glimpse of a lake,” and by the end of her day in the corporate cubicle world, she is literally pleading, “Take me out tonight/And give me soul tonight/Give me your soul tonight/Give me anything tonight.” Even in the loneliness of the hotel room, or in the empty conference room with its barren dry-erase board, Johan is plotting their escape from the dining room, and he’s pleading the girl spend less time in her dressing room and get out with him on “I Just Called to Say Jag Alskar Dig” (Swedish for “I Love You”).
After wondering if “Would You Say Stop?” on the galloping first single, Lannerheim argues on “Under Water” that setting the controls for the heart of the sun would be a source of salvation: “Take away the trouble take away the pain/We are going to a sunny side/No one stays the same/Go, go, go to a place under water/Come, come, come to a place in the sun” she sings.
If there’s any criticism to be levied against the new Acid House Kings record, it’s an issue of pacing.
Just as some would say that all songs by The Wedding Present ‘SOUND THE SAME’ (as they famously proclaimed on their own tour T-shirts), the same could be argued of these ten tracks and their tempos; while none of them are fast-paced rockers, none of them are leisurely, contemplative ballads either; they all proceed at a bouncy pace, and although the instrumentation is richly varied and layered in each song, they do become a bit same-y after repeated listens.
Still, just like AC/DC or The Ramones, even though their compositions may be variations on the same song, it’s still a great song. Each Acid House Kings record has been better than the last one, and Music Sounds Better With You definitely follows that trend. The record is over too soon, but has definitely been worth the long wait, and is an entirely lovely listen.
Acid House Kings Music Sounds Better With You Tracklist
- Are We Lovers Or Are We Friends?
- Would You Say Stop?
- Under Water
- (I’m In) A Chorus Line
- Where Have You Been?
- There Is Something Beautiful
- I Just Called To Say Jag Alskar Dig
- Heaven Knows I Miss Him Now