After the doom and gloom of Loreen’s debut album, let’s stay in Sweden (after all, why would you leave?), and enjoy the fourth album from Agnes. Winner of Sweden’s “Idol” show in 2005, she’s enjoyed success at home, and even an international crossover single with “Release me”.
It doesn’t feel that she’s really capitalised on that big hit, only really scoring a minor hit with follow-up single “I Need You Now”. But after an extended break, she’s here with a nice dollop of Swedish dance-pop. She’s even topless on the front cover, get her!
08 Amazing – What an odd song to start off with! Well not really that odd for the most part, the verses have a throbbing bassline and sparse vocals. But she loses the plot a bit for the chorus. It’s amaaaaaaa-ZANG!! She’s not going for vocal perfection here, just powerful (and slightly unhinged) yelping… but it sort of works. She doesn’t come over as a ‘personality act’ really, so I’m glad she’s showing a bit of spark. The song stomps along without much other excitement, but that chorus and the crazy electro-scribbly middle-eight prop the whole thing up.
07 Walk out of here – No time for a ballad, even though it sounds like it. Instead, an upbeat tempo kicks in, as Agnes weaves a tale of falling for a stranger. It sounds like a female Owl City track somehow. Obviously for me that’s a great thing, as I love Owl City. It’s warm and fun, though maybe it’s not the most memorable track. I do really like the sound of her voice, and this is fine but just not a standout.
08 All I want is you – More yearning electro-ballads, but that’s fine by me. Some dramatic strings thrown in for good measure… did they know I was coming? So far the album has had plenty of decent but perhaps unextraordinary tracks, but there’s a good energy and consistent tone – not to the point of sounding samey. It’s tempting for her to make “Release me” again, and there are shades of that here, but only a little. Very good, but again not amazing (amaaaaa-ZANG!!)
10 One last time – Oh God, I really didn’t take to this as a single a few months ago when I first heard it, but I totally love it now. When that deep, dark backing effect kicks in after about 30 seconds, it still gives me shivers. I know she can sound happy, but there’s a lot of that tortured note to her voice so far, particularly here. It’s a really touching ballad, trying to make up for her mistakes that appear to have totally destroyed a relationship. It’s simple, but really shows how she’s developed since the last album.
09 Loaded – Time for a bit of fun, and what must rank as one of the most shameless penis lyrics in a song this year. Is that thing loaded, indeed? A pulsing electro intro, that pauses for a bridge and then thumps right back for the chorus. Really love it, even if those lyrics really are naff and awkward in (most) places. That’s just a great chorus though, love it!
08 Human Touch – Thank God, she’s on to happier songs after that rather miserable opening act. This is great modern Swedish pop track, there’s just that different feel to it than your standard-issue Max Martin tracks (though he’s Swedish of course). It’s punchy, and has a great 80s-throwback bridge, like a Glee cover of Van Halen or something. OK there’s not a huge amount to it, but it’s upbeat and irresistible.
08 Watching it burn – OK enough excitement, time for a standard ballad. She’s got a lovely voice so there’s no need to bury it in production every time (though she works well with that). Does that chorus remind anyone else of “I Have A Dream”? It’s another 80s throwback vibe, I think it’s the second verse that’s making me think that. Strings too! Love it! The track doesn’t quite get my blood pumping, but she’s got the voice for it. Especially towards the end, some great pure notes.
06 Got me good – Did this fall off the back of an Alexandra Burke album? That Robin S bassline gives a great 90s feel to this one, but without sounding dated. There’s not much to it though, and it does start to get a little boring towards the end. But ultimately, all these songs are less than 4 minutes long; how bored can you get? It’ll do until the next track.
08 Like God – The tempo gets back up and running, with that rich sound that’s really giving so much to this album. Those Swedes really know what they’re doing. Describing someone as being like God is a bit of a claim, and it’s not entirely clear why she’s doing that, but that chorus really soars. Can’t put my finger on why I like this so much, it just works.
07 Into the sun – A full-on electropop track now, kicking off right from the first second. This feels like another one that fell off the back of the Burke lorry, but that’s no bad thing. The chorus is pretty good but it’s all over the place. It’s a strong melody, I’m just not sure I’m that keen on it.
09 Nothing else matters – Oh stop ruining it with these ballads! Fair enough though, she’s getting good at these, though you can’t just slap a string section on any other track you know … oh who am I kidding? That little trembling bit at the start of the second verse just killed me. I just love this woman *jumps on sofa*.
07 Unforgiven – Cheer up! Can’t we go out on a happy note? That mournful tone is back again to play us out. Glad this is only a bonus track, it fits in with the album, but it’s just a bit superfluous. Nice enough, but there’s not a lot to that chorus at all is there? Still, nothing wrong with it.
So there we have it. I really liked former album “Dance Love Pop”, but I don’t remember feeling this strongly about it. “Veritas” shows how sophisticated an artist she’s become in the intervening years, and everything about this project just feels classy and well thought-out. OK so there’s not another “Release me”, or a breakout hit here, but it certainly gives me hope for the rest of her career. Will Melodifestivalen come knocking in 2013? I hope so, I think she might not have the ridiculous personalities of the Schlager heroines, but she is a class act and – gold catsuit notwithstanding – could come up with the goods easily.
Keepers for the iPod: Amazing, All I want is you, One last time, Loaded, Human Touch, Watching it burn, Like God, Nothing else matters