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Music Review: Liechtenstein – Survival Strategies in a Modern World

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If you’re searching for a new spin on the pop and rock sounds of the late '50s and early '60s that doesn’t perform muscle car burnouts on your eardrums, check out Liechtenstein. After listening to Survival Strategies in a Modern World for the fifth time, I can’t always tell what these three ladies are singing, but their vocal melodies are deliciously sweet, yet haunting.  

Liechtenstein is a Gothenburg, Sweden trio who sing in English consisting of lead vocalist and guitarist Renee Gustafsson, bassist Naemi Pebaque, and drummer Elin Engström. The album breezes by at 23 minutes during which Renee, Naemi, and Elin create an hypnotic lo-fi mix of '60s girl groups, early '60s rock, doo-wop, and even surf. Apparently, they were influenced by an '80s movement led by English indie pop bands The Shop Assistants and Talulah Gosh. I was unaware of the “twee-pop” scene before reviewing the CD, but I still like the retro sound.

Liechtenstein’s sound has an ethereal almost flying-through-the-air quality. This is due to heavy use of echo effects and a sometimes barely emphasized song structure. While the girls playing style simply creates a jangly background for the vocals, bassist Naemi comes up with some propulsive and bouncy riffs. Listen to the throbbing of the opening track “All at Once” and the skipping feel of the song “White Dress.”  

It’s wonderful to hear indie music where the singers drop screaming in favor of three-part harmonizing. All three girls’ voices meld together well. Soaring but never harsh, their tone ranges from pensive to starry-eyed to a bit bratty. Songwriter Renee writes musical poems about relationships and self-image along with one or two about the pressure of modern society. My favorites include “Roses in the Park” and “Postcard.”

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This is one of those albums that leaves you begging for liner notes because the lyrics aren’t always easy to hear. So far I’ve listened to the record through computer speakers, headphones, and my car stereo, and the echo always takes little bites out of the lyrics. But the volume level of the voices might have been dropped slightly on purpose. Lines may have been whispered, even mumbled purposely too. It’s sort of addictive replaying the album to absorb all the words, but I’d still prefer to hear the words clearly.

I kinda wish I was related to band leader Renee, but I’m not, despite having the same last name. A Swiss army knife of musical talent, she not only created the music, but also produced, recorded, and mixed it. Survival Strategies in a Modern World bursts through the chatter that is the indie scene. I adore Liechtenstein’s clean sounding melodies and their mysterious heartfelt lyrics. I’d like to hear more of them, please.

Grade: B+

If you’re in Sweden, check them out at this year’s Hultsfred Festival 2009.

Liechtenstein’s Myspace page

Liechtenstein’s Website

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About Kevin Gustafson