August 03, 2004

The Cardigans "Long Gone Before Daylight"

You remember the Cardigans, don't you? Back in 1996, they had a great pop hit with "Lovefool," and then they had nothing. As one-hit wonders go, it was a great one hit. This Swedish band was compared to Abba and, most unfairly, Ace of Base, so it was instantly expected for the band to be nothing more than superficial, meaningless pop. Of course, there was much more to the Cardigans than that, as they proved with Gran Turismo, a mellow, downcast album that didn't have a "Lovefool"-style hit. That the band seemingly disappeared without a trace after its release was no surprise.

Of course, they didn't really disappear. Europe appreciated them more than America ever did, and when the band went on hiatus, they were graced with the wonderful A Camp, Nina Persson's solo project with Sparklehorse's Mark Linkous. Long Gone Before Daylight was released in the rest of the world well over a year ago, but it's just now finding release here in the States, because hey, America doesn't care! Cynical nature aside, "Lovefool" really did damn them into a vapid pop group image, as witnessed by the negative reviews that American reviewers gave Long Gone Before Daylight upon its release last year.

First and foremost, Long Gone Before Daylight is not a country album. Previous reports you might have heard are incorrect. It's very much a pop album, but it's not First Band On The Moon. It's also a very bleak, somewhat sad album, but it's not overwhelmingly bleak like Gran Turismo. It is a very mature album, one that ignores everything they've done before and stands on its own feet. Jazzy? Yes. Pop? Yes. Depressing? Occasionally. Intelligent? Wonderfully so. This is the pop music for adults, thinking people and those wo like substance over style--a throwback to the day when pop musicians weren't aiming for the fickle teen demographic.

Of course, the Cardigans' main attraction is still Nina Persson's warm, sexy singing. It's no surprise that the band's sound is warm and inviting--no matter what style they performed, Peter Svensson's always had the ability to create lush music--and with their newfound appreciation for softer, gentler sounds, Persson's voice flies higher than ever before. It's still smooth and sexy, but it's also a lot smarter, simply because she's grown quite wonderfully as a songwriter. From the first moments of album opener "Communication," Persson's croon sweetly delivers some of the saddest lyrics ever written: "You want me, but I don't know how to connect, so I disconnect."

Thankfully, things only get sadder from there. Long Gone Before Daylight has the distinct honor of being an utterly sad and depressing record, but this is a good thing, for out of desperation comes hope. Sure, you might think "Couldn't Care Less" and "Feathers and Down," but they balance out the sadness with songs of hope such as "And Then You Kissed Me" and "Live and Learn," though you should be warned--the hope is hidden underneath the guise of melancholy. Long Gone Before Daylight is both a balm for those who want to wallow in their misery and a salve for those who need to heal their broken heart.

You should ignore everything you know about the Cardigans, though, because Long Gone Before Daylight is easily the best record of their career. Their obvious pop hooks may be gone, but you'll soon discover that you cannot turn off this album. The Cardigans make no lovin' fun, and Long Gone Before Daylight is a treasure of a pop album.

--Joseph Kyle

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