The School Book Depository - 'The School Book Depository'
Back in April we did a quick write up on a new single entitled 'Salvation' by the 'The School Book Depository', and I did say that we would try and do an album review if we had chance. But I do say those type of things rather a lot - sometimes we just don't get the opportunity or an album doesn't quite live up to our initial expectations. However an album review of 'The School Book Depository' is necessary, as whilst on first listen it might seem like a guilty pleasure, it is as surprising and interesting a release as you will hear for a long time. And above all else, its simply hugely entertaining from start to finish, packed full of great tunes.
For the uninitiated, 'The School Book Depository' is the creation of Fredrik Solfors, a Swedish musician previously known for being in bands such as Kinetics and Wagon. The album was recorded in his own home studio in Växjö, and it comprises a huge array of influences from across genres and across the decades, including hip hop, garage pop and conventional pop, but loosely held together in an indie rock style.
After the excellent opening track (the previously reviewed 'Salvation'), we're offered the hip hop inspired 'A Fork in the Road for Behavoural Science'. At first there's no doubt I listened with a slightly detached curiosity, as i normally do with hip hop, but this is a totally addictive track, quirky tunes with cleverly interwoven lyrics - 'I guess I should be banned from the public arena, but the governor attacks the problem with folded arms'. 'I Wanna Derail!' maybe leans too much in the direction of mainstream pop for my liking (OK so maybe my 9 year old daughter loved it just a bit too much...), but 'Airport Aprons' is just gorgeous, a soft melancholy melody with appealing harmonies and simple thoughtful lyrics again which hit the mark - 'You don't know where the oceans end / you don't know how the sky is connected to everything / but it's time to touch the ground'. Bob is a Civil War Reenactor' is such a brilliant theme for a song, and Fredrik Solfors just has this ability to paint the most vivid pictures in his lyrics - but I love the way the song builds in intensity to this big instrumental led climax, maybe all that's missing is a 70 piece Philharmonic Orchestra to throw into the mix.
'I'm a Golden Retriever' is apparently a song about a poor dog with rabies, which is probably slightly absurd, but by this stage I'm so totally bought into the ambitions of the album I barely care. 'Baby Locust' is another thoughtful track, showing again that the strength of this album is simply the beautifully written tunes. The album ends with 'Treadmill Heaven', another huge chorus and lyrics everyone should take heed of: 'Making up plans with your personal trainer / the road to perfection is seemingly endless ... is this really all that you want, life is more than this'. Indeed it is.
On reflection, it's that diversity in subject matter within the songwriting which is at the heart of the album - there are 9 individual distinct tracks with a real character, on different themes which will all stick in your mind. Even though I guess some of the topics are just sad and the tunes are softly melancholic, this is still an upbeat and positive album - none of the tracks even cause a flicker on our 'Mirel Wagner Scale of Bleakness', the Richter style measurement of general misery in songwriting that we've long adopted at NMR. Similarly to bands such as 'Koria Kitten Riot', 'The School Book Depository' poke humanity with a stick rather than jumping in and wallowing in its misfortune.
Now I'm not quite suggesting that Fredrik Solfors brilliance makes giants such as Bach, Brahms and Mozart look like ridiculous and mediocre jesters, and that this music will profoundly change our western civilisation. But let's be clear about this, there is a consistent splattering of musical genius in Solfors songwriting, with tracks that have been bouncing around my head all week, and that have been universally met with approval by all ages in my house. 'The School Book Depository' is simply a gem of an album, with philosophical lyrics to be considered and huge melodies to be enjoyed. I really don't want to let it go.
Nordic Music Review 8.5/10