Swedish duo Pools were here last year with their debut song ‘Walk’, which was billed as the title track to this album but which patently wasn’t because the album has acquired the title ‘You & Us.’ Apparently that is because it records “some thoughts about how she and I felt during the relationship, how you have to handle yourself, and at the same time an ‘Us'”. Yep, it’s a break-up album. They aren’t the sole preserve of 18-year girls.
‘Grave’ is the opening track (of eight), that’s for sure and there’s endless gravitas in it. ‘You & Us’ was written while one of the duo, Arvid Hällagård (the other is Fredrik Forell), was going through a divorce and it now appears that the entire album revolves around that outcome.
Ergo it’s full to the brim with sadness and heartache, loss and sorrow. As the PR says, “From start to finish, the record follows the painful journey of putting a relationship to rest, recognising its shortcomings and beginning to move on”, and this track, evidently the ‘putting to rest’ bit, qualifies unopposed already for the title of musical oxymoron of the year, given that it is released on the Something Beautiful label.
Beautiful it is not. It could be the title music to one of those programmes they show on the Trash TV channel, you know the ones I mean, ‘Britain’s Most Evil Killers’ or ‘Killer in my village’. It is visceral in tone while guttural in elocution.
None of the above means I don’t like it; actually I do. Mainly for the vocal, which is far more convincing than, say, Rag ‘n Bone Man. Last time out I said that Arvid (who incidentally is backed by an almost falsetto Fredrik on this song), sounded like a cross between Seasick Steve and Mavis Staples with the huskiness of Roger Chapman thrown in, and I see no need to change that assessment.
I had a quick listen to the rest of the album. There is nothing you could call upbeat – which this blend of Americana, Folk and Gospel can be - with perhaps the exception of what is now the real title track, ‘You & Us’ and half of the final one, ‘This Dance’.
Most of the tracks make Leonard Cohen sound like Abba. But that only goes to prove that there can be a raw beauty in desolation.
Release date: 14th May 2021.
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