Not letting their debut define them, Liechtenstein expands into neighboring sonic territory, as the band crafts a different variety of equally irresistible songs this time around.
On Fast Forward, we have yet another lineup change. New male guitarist Pierre emigrates to the band populated by guitarist and lead singer Renée Gustafsson, bassist Ulrika Mild, drummer Elin Engstrom, and keyboardist Emma Dahlqvist. This marks the first time they’ve had a second guitarist since founding member Teresa Jaksetic left the group.
This album sounds punkier, but the emphasis is still on pop. It’s harder to find songs on the record that remind you of ’80s U.K girl bands. The songs, however, still contain bits of ’60s pop/rock, spaghetti westerns and surf.
The music on this album seems more fleshed out. On their first album, Survival Strategies in a Modern World, the songs switched from verse to chorus without much of a transition. Now you feel the verses flow into the choruses. The recording quality cleared up. No longer does the music fly along on a lo-fi cloud. But if reverb is your guilty pleasure, you can still find it.
I loved the bass playing on Survival Strategies, but you need to listen to it here. Mild rattles off melodic lines that drive most of the songs. The sharp, punchy tone really sticks in your ear. Check out some seriously hooky fingerpicking by Mild on the songs “Heads on Golden Plates” and “Meantime.”
On their second album, the band tests out guitar soloing. “Meantime” gives me shivers from glistening bridge to surfy solo. You can still find Liechtenstein banging out jangly rhythms on songs like “Strange Ideas.” The sparkly guitar on Passion for Water” recalls sunlight reflecting off ocean waves. Additionally, the guitar tone sounds cleaner with no fuzzed-out songs like “Roses in the Park.”
The energetic trumpets from past singles briefly reappear. Hearing them on tracks like “Passion for Water” creates a lot of jumping up and down.
Sweet vocal harmonies also return. The girls slowly glide from octave to octave on the Beach Boys-inspired “An Old Beginning.” Renée’s voice plunges to particularly low notes. Like sunlight growing in intensity, the singing on “Meantime” is mesmerizing.
Fast Forward’s lyrics focus on politics and social commentary more than their debut LP or their last single I reviewed. “A Monumental Plan” contains a great, but pessimistic metaphor about city life in its chorus: “Dreams of Spain, dreams of life/Neatly packed away in a grey concrete box.”
It’s maybe not as bothersome to other listeners, but hearing a chunk of songs from live video clips, singles and audio clips stole some of the surprise. As someone who’s burned a hole in his hard drive playing them over the past three years, I’d have liked a couple more songs heard nowhere else. Nevertheless, the girls show they can be both sweet and biting. No real stumbles. Fast Forward is a solid follow-up album.
Pick it up at the Fraction Discs website. You can also download it from online music stores like iTunes and Amazon.com.