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Tuesday, March 23, 2010


320 KBPS

I'm from Barcelona's first album was called Let Me Introduce My Friends; the follow-up could be titled Let Me Introduce My Melancholy Friends. If the debut was giddy, innocent, and lighter than air, Who Killed Harry Houdini? is glum, confused, and troubled. Instead of songs about stamp collecting and the joys of making music, you get "Music Almost Killed Me" and "Ophelia," which has the telling lyric "He didn't believe in anything/He didn't believe in joy." Instead of cheerful songs about oversleeping and chicken pox, heavy stuff like death and ghosts and tears dominate the lyrics. The band's leader, Emanuel Lundgren, has either had some rough times since the first album or is a very good actor, as the songs reflect a tortured soul. All throughout the record there's an overcast and moody feel that even the poppiest, peppiest song, "Paper Planes," can't break through (and it doesn't help that the song is about the dehumanizing effects of city living). Just knowing that the album isn't the pure blast of sunshine that the debut was might be enough to turn off the group's fans in dispirited droves. Hopefully that won't happen, because it turns out that the band does melancholy quite well, using dynamics and pacing to keep things from getting too gloomy and giving the most depressed songs the liveliest backing — the rocked-out "Houdini" or the hooky-as-anything-on-the-first-album "Mingus," for example. And there is some hope among the teardrops and sighs, like "Mingus"' rallying cry "In my heart still a kid" or a song about the power of music to free you from your troubles for a while ("Headphones"). It helps too that Lundgren's producing and arranging skills have grown; the production is clearer and the arrangements show a lighter touch. He doesn't call in the vocal choruses on every song, and instead picks their spots carefully. The instrumentation is also more restrained; there are large stretches of sparseness within the songs, fitting the somber mood of the lyrics perfectly. It's still a unique sound when the whole band gets together and makes a lovely racket (as on "Rufus" or the very Phil Spector-ish "Andy"), but the gimmick of the huge band can't hide the fact that there is some real stuff going on behind the scenes. All the emotion and soulful melancholy on display is a shock, and it may take a few spins to get past the feeling that the band is just too different from the happy-go-lucky souls who made Let Me Introduce My Friends, that they are now too gloomy to be enjoyed any longer. But if you give Who Killed Harry Houdini? a serious listen and can get past the initial surprise and mild disappointment, the quiet beauty of the songs, the tender performances, and the beaten down but not broken soul of Emanuel Lundgren are enough to break your heart.

1. Andy
2. Paper Planes
3. Headphones
4. Music Killed Me
5. Gunhild (Featuring SoKo)
6. Mingus
7. Ophelia
8. Houdini
9. Little Ghost
10. Rufus

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