Peter Bjorn and John
Swedish imports (as if the name wasn't a giveaway) PB&J have been making music together for eight years, but it took their third and latest release, Writer's Block, to strike a chord in America. The album represents a change of pace for the trio, as they largely ditch the up-tempo New Wave/power pop of their 2002 self-titled debut and 2005's Falling Out in favor of icy, spare pop that soft-pedals the guitar for chilly synth lines. While there's still a dose of jangling guitars, the mood is subdued and haunted, like Joe Pernice trapped in a Jens Lekman song. It feels like baroque pop as written by Raymond Carver trimmed of fat, naked, and vulnerable. There's a desolate beauty at work, from the percolating melancholia of "Up Against the Wall," with its skittering electronic textures, to the burbling, dyspeptic New Order-ish slink of "Let's Call It Off," which matches the album's heartbroken emotional pitch. The exception to the sad reflection is the scintillating pop ballad, "Young Folks," underscored by throbbing '80s bass, bustling toms, and gentle watercolor synths fill-shading the infectious melody with the overwhelming sense of hope and naiveté an ode to young love deserves, as Peter Morén and guest vocalist Victoria Bergsman (Concretes) sing, "We don't care about the old folks." Indeed.