Marching Band, Spark Large

Matthew Fritch

By Matthew Fritch

on 04.22.11 in Reviews

Scandinavia's soft revolution — from early adopters Kings of Convenience to latter-day phenoms Peter Bjorn and John — broadcasts loud and clear to the music-blog masses. Credit it to the persistence of melody: the splashy hooks and campfire-folk sentiment of its foot soldiers make for perfectly digestible, obsession-worthy pop songs. Linköping, Sweden's Marching Band joins the fray with its debut album Spark Large, an unrelenting rush of 12 unassuming superhits by Erik Sunbring and Jacob Lind.

How Swede it is: irresistible pop from Scandinavian duo is a touch of Shins, a dash of Smiths.

As is appropriate for a group called Marching Band, the duo makes big, busy songs. Spark Large is driven by massed vocal harmonies and supported by frenetically finger-picked guitars and what seems like an army of plinking mallet percussion: xylophone, marimba and vibraphone. Sunbring and Lind have struck a peculiar balance between the pep-rally energy of fellow Swedes I'm From Barcelona, the feather-touch songcraft of the Shins and the small-scale majesty of Mull Historical Society.

Many of the songs here are fueled by constant yearning and underlying ennui (both common Nordic-pop afflictions), but Marching Band makes even its introspective, sotto-voce moments sound like fun. The bit of marimba on opener “For Your Love” provides a Caribbean-themed flashback to the Kinks' “Come Dancing,” while “Travel In Time” finds the pair making the Barry Manilow-like boast “I'll write songs that will make you cry.” On “Letters,” meanwhile, they offer stern advice to a reclusive pen pal (“You need to live for yourself/You need to stop writing to me”) and duly stamp it with Smiths-like guitar jangle. Sunny and effervescent without being annoyingly cheery, Spark Large may be the year's finest example of polyphonic twee.