Cardigans, Gran Turismo

The Cardigans - Gran TurismoSpooky. It’s probably the best word I can come up with to describe this album. It’s spooky music. It’s spooky that the Cardigans did it. It’s spookily produced. And it’s altogether stupid that I didn’t purchase this when it was released. No matter now. This winter will be better for my having it.

It’s truly remarkable that a band can record a departure such as this and come away from it square on their feet.

The record is dark. Dark in a really beautiful way.

It is also prescient. The Cardigans released Gran Turismo in late 1998, as other European rock/pop bands were leaning towards electronica, which should prove that the Cardigans were never a one-hit wonder type of band, but rather a very smart band who was moving in a direction similar to their contemporaries.

Nina Persson’s voice is well-suited to this context. The electronic stylizings of the album suit her English-as-a-second-language pronunciation and alien pitch moreso than their sugar-pop ever did.

The first song ‘Paralyzed’ sounds like a prayer to the monolith from 2001. Nina’s voice combined with the soft synth sounds, electronic drum sounds and angular guitar buzzes and feedback that would have Graham Coxon envious makes for a haunting tune that lets you up for air just in time for the second track to suck it out of you.

‘Erase/Rewind,’ the album’s most memorable tune, begins with the same eerie outer-space-chill, but it is immediately warmed by Nina’s gorgeous voice. Atmospheric synth strings keep the proceedings floating, but the tight drum beat keeps everything driving.

The rest of the album retains the dark feel, with loud, choppy guitars and spacey keyboards weaving around the electronic sounds of the drums. ‘Hanging Around’ and ‘My Favourite Game’ are driving songs that project a hypnotic, forceful beat while maintaining a gloomy mood.

This departure is altogether healthy for a band with clearly more imagination than they were previously given credit for. It’s difficult to imagine what future Cardigans’ releases might sound like since this new darkness has clearly aliented the public expecting more pap from cute Swedish people.