opinion by JEAN-LUC MARSH
The Kingdom of Sweden has an illustrious history in the production of pop music dating back to the meteoric rise of ABBA in the seventies. In the years since, throngs of Swedish musicians have invaded the genres of pop and electronica, and amidst contemporary performers such as Robyn, Lykke Li, and most recently, Icona Pop, any emerging Scandinavian pop act faces stiff competition both to produce material up to par with the Nordic standard and to differentiate itself from the pack.
In an arena already full of such talent, any neophyte runs the risk of simply being swept aside by the more established artists. Previous Swedish acts managed to carve out their own niches in the industry through the development of a unique musical calling card. For Robyn, it was cheeky ditties interspersed with occasional revelations of vulnerability, while Lykke Li set herself apart with stark melodies and profound hooks, and Icona Pop mastered the art of not giving a fuck, courtesy of a little lyrical help from Charli XCX. Enter Postiljonen: a Stockholm-based trio composed of Daniel Sjörs, Joel Nyström Holm, and Mia Bøe. With an identity rooted in cinematic arrangements and understated lyrics, this upstart group combats the competition with pure walls of sound on Skyer, their lofty and exquisite debut.
“Intro,” the aptly-named, though slightly unoriginal, opening track clearly lays out the primary goal of Skyer: to sweep you away in its expansive scale. The blaring pulses of its initial moments disintegrate into a delicate environment of distant saxophones, muted drumbeats, and majestic breaths, laying the foundation for a debut album built on the power of its melodies rather than its lyricism.
First single, “Supreme,” remains one of the most dazzling, even on an album brimming with soaring epics. From beginning to end, “Supreme” pulls no punches in the pursuit of sonic grandiosity. A contagious rhythm equal parts Balearic discotheque and kaleidoscopic carnival spirit, united by crystalline production, dominates the track. Lyrics take a subordinate position, floating around like a diaphanous mist, raining down faint phrases that shatter upon contact with the melody. It is a conscious decision on Postiljonen’s part, choosing to focus on adding to the trancelike quality of their music via the descant, rather than detracting from it with brash lyrics. The choice becomes even more evident during the coda; a wordless, passionate guitar solo that speaks volumes more than a few phrases ever could.
Although Skyer is littered with immense electronic arias, it is not without its share of gloomy twists and intimate moments. On “Rivers,” Bøe’s lyrics attain a prominence rarely seen elsewhere on the record, as she traverses a murky terrain of military drumbeats and angelic harmonization. Penultimate track, “All That We Had Is Lost,” finds Bøe channeling Enya as her declarations of being unable to “live in those dreams you made” reverberate over gentle hi-hats and a rueful saxophone.
Despite the varying subject material, Skyer is remarkable in its cohesiveness. The synthesizer is omnipresent, resulting in an album that is essentially an experiment in the many variations of one base sound. While many of the songs seem similar, none of them feel out of place. It is the embellishments on individual tracks that lend them individuality, from the gorgeous saxophone solo on “Atlantis,” to the neon conclusion of “We Raise Our Hearts.”
Nevertheless, the lack of lyricism leads to an inevitable sense of disorientation. No matter though. Skyer, with its hazy miasma of synthesizers, saxophones, and snippets of movie dialogue, is an album to get lost within. The confusion breeds wonderment, and is the key to unearthing the modest magic buried throughout the record. Ultimately, Skyer begs very little of you other than your time. It does not need your analysis. It only wants to be listened to in order to convince you, with its sweeping aural dreamscapes, that Postiljonen can hold their own among the heavyweights. [B+]