This week is the massive CMJ Festival, which has indie musicians, publicists, label folks and journalists running themselves ragged across New York over the course of a week – but it can also offer great opportunities for serendipitous discovery of new artists that you should be paying attention to right now. It also offers an opportunity to network and meet new business contacts and run into old friends and associates Believe me. I’ve done an equal share of all of that this week. However, sadly, my MacBook Pro is on the fritz again, thanks to what the technician at Tekserve told me looked like a software issue that made the keyboard suddenly nonresponsive – while I was working on a post, no less. So thankfully, I’m borrowing my mother’s laptop to take care of a few things while I can, although I have to admit that Windows 8 is one of the most frustrating computing experiences I’ve ever had. In any case, I’ll be trying to post as much as I can until I’m back up and running again. So if you can, dear friends, bear with me for the next few days.
Now on to the business at hand.
Swedish husband and wife duo Ola Frick and Carina Johansson Frick, best known as The Moonbabies have one of the more interesting backstories I’ve come across in recent memory. Formed in 1997, in Malmo Sweden, the band was originally a shoegaze-inspired band; however, their sophomore effort released in 2004, The Orange Billboard was heavily inspired by and was modeled after Wilco’s critically acclaimed, Yankee Hotel Foxtrot. Much like the album it was modeled after, The Orange Billboard was released to critically acclaim across Europe, and as a result, the band embarked on an extensive European tour. But it was the release of their War on Sound mini-album and its album title track single that brought the band international attention; in fact, the song appeared in an episode of Gray’s Anatomy and was a major hit in their native Sweden.
But here’s where things turn. As the duo were working on material for their third album, they had felt an increasing pressure to create and deliver songs that were commercially viable. It was at that point, where they felt as though they drifting away from their creative vision. The duo started to beat themselves up for not staying true to the playfulness that originally brought them attention. Feeling as though they were in a creative rut, and not knowing what their next move was, they did what most artists find themselves doing – they got out of their comfort zone and moved to Berlin, Germany. And while there, they found themselves deeply inspired by that city’s renowned house music and dance music scenes; in fact, it was while in Berlin that the duo began moving towards a more electronic sound. But in some way. the duo felt a different sense of pressure – the pressure of having to constantly prove themselves in a much bigger scene.
After spending two years in Berlin, the Fricks returned to Sweden and started the recording process again. But it proved to be unsuccessful as they found themselves in the repetitive pattern of desperately attempting to push forward, scrapping things and then starting all over again, which they did 30 times or so. However, the birth of their son last year, may have proved to be the catalyst that gave new life into their creative process. In fact, the focus became simpler – move past bad memories and focus on the songs that created a visceral sensation. And as they were going through old material, they discovered things that they didn’t previously see, and the ideas started to flow about naturally.
To build up buzz for their fourth full-length album slated for a late spring 2015 release, the Fricks released two singles “Chorus” and “Raindrops” as the first of a series of digital double singles. “Chorus” is a breezily percussive pop track with a gentle folksy twang that manages to be both lush and ethereal, like a pleasant dream. In some way, it’s so amiable that you can’t help but fall in love with it. “Raindrops” as Carina Johansson Frick has described it is about feverish dreams that are so vivid that you wind up having a complex array of emotions – in particular, awe inspiring beauty and terrifying fear simultaneously. In some way, “Raindrops” is the more folk-based song with swirling electronics which evoke (and emphasize) the sensation of waking from a fever dream and not being sure what was real and what was a hallucination.
Both songs reveal that the Fricks are capable of crafting songs of great beauty and incredible nuance that are deeply thoughtful and well-written while possessing an accessible and infectious quality.