Wednesday, June 3, 2009

El Perro Del Mar. El Perro Del Mar (Memphis Industries, 2006)

“This loneliness ain’t pretty no more.”

Hailing from the dolorous Nordic climes of Gothenburg, Sweden, El Perro Del Mar, aka Sarah Assbring, is a one-woman show of delicious lo-fi pop melancholia. Who knew such sonic grief could flow from a place that gets 17 hours of sunlight a day every summer? But flow it does, and after a listen to 2006’s self-titled LP, you’ll be happier for it. Backed by what sounds like the world’s saddest girl group, El Perro Del Mar delivers devastatingly lush vignettes that you’ll inevitably find yourself ooh-ing and bebop-a-loo-ing along to.

"Candy" gets things dirge-ing with a woe-is-me tale of a people-pleaser who has had it up. to. here. and flip-flops into a sighing hedonism, if only for one night. Trust me, you’ll want to be along for the ride, especially as "Candy" gives way to album hit "God Knows (You Gotta Give To Get)." This girl is carrying around some serious guilt, which she channels beautifully into this Shangri-La’s-esque number.

"Party" invites you along to the drama club festivities: “Is it so hard to see/I don’t want to be your friend/I just want to be a part of you.” And following that, "People" declares all human beings simply impenetrable: “I can’t understand people/ But I guess that’s all right/ 'Cause they can’t understand me.” Does it get any more dire? Oh yeah, it does. "Dog" finds our El Perro being treated like a mongrel by some ne’er-do-well, and liking it.

"I Can’t Talk About It" will have you hand-clapping along as our drama queen clams up: “Lately there’s been a lot going on/ I can’t really talk about it.” Luckily, "Coming Down The Hill" finds our Swedish chanteuse skipping around proclaiming to the world that she’s got good news. What could it be? “I’ve lost the blues for you.”

Never fear, before you can get used to that high note, she’s back to plumbing the nadir of "This Loneliness," which is seriously impairing her social life. Even "It’s All Good," perhaps the cheeriest ditty on the record (“It’s all good to take a new road and never look back") can’t hide the edge in Assbring’s voice, and while the good vibes float almost to the surface, they never quite emerge from the deep. The horn-happy "Here Comes That Feeling," will have you dancing along before you realize that the feeling she’s talking about is soul-crushing depression.

By the end of this LP you may just get the sense that Ms. Assbring has let you in on a personal therapy session in which her hopelessness is best medicated with a dose of doo-wop. But she walks an exquisite tightrope of letting you see and hear the depths of her misery while at the same time buoying you gently out of reach of her gloom.-- Anneke Chy