Dirty Loops - 2014
Have you been curious as to what would have happened if Stevie Wonder had crossed paths with Chick Corea’s Electric Band, with the idea of writing songs for Britney Spears, but then realized they were a little to hip to give away to her so decided to record the tracks themselves? Well, you no longer have to ponder what the outcome might have sounded like. Introducing: Dirty Loops – an insanely talented Swedish trio (bass, drums, vocals/piano) who have put together the year’s most fantastic pop/not-really-pop album. The first talking point here is again, how incredibly talented each individual is (although I am partial to Henrik Linder on the bass). The three of them all studied music in College and met as session players (it’s no secret that studio session players are always so far above the normal musicianship grade, as they need to be). Apparently they were all feeling stifled creatively, due to playing everyone else’s music, that they decided to get together outside of ‘work’ and write their own material. Starting out as a way to pass time between sessions (as well as writing their own music) they soon started taking successful pop songs and covering them in an unbelievably unique and Jazz/Fusion oriented way. Chords were substituted, ensemble ‘hits’ were added, bass ‘lines’ were actually written, solos in brief played – all this creating a reimagining of songs such as Lady Gaga’s, ‘Just Dance’ and Justin Beiber’s, ‘Baby’, while still making the hits instantly recognizable and infinitely more fun. These covers brought them YouTube success and slight fame which led to their writing, Loopified.
Before I go on, did I mention already how ridiculously talented they are? Good. Well the talent on show is equaled by their pop (and I stress, POP) compositional skills. All the ‘tricks’ they employed in redoing other people’s hits are on show in their ten original tracks. Having such deep backgrounds in Jazz and Classical music has given them the tools to make seemingly simple songs in structure, exceptionally clever when looked at in detail. The extra rhythmic hits and breaks are in brief but are so steeped in syncopation that they are astounding (‘tight’ is a musical term that does not even start to serve the bands relationship well). Slick drum fills, elongated chord patterns, and tasty bass passages sometimes pass by so quickly or are so well thought out that you wouldn’t necessarily notice them unless you cared to. That’s the genius of Dirty Loops: If all you want to get out of their music is the pop element, they make it easy for you to do so by not being overly clever and even more important, not being obvious. However, if you wish to bask in the musicianship of each track then you will be bulldozed by how fun, smart and exact the extra elements they throw in are.
Beyond the great musicianship and general catchiness of Loopified is actually an album that suffers ever so softly from a few too many poor or ‘cheesy’ choices. These elements are fortunately made up for by all the other moments on the album that are much greater in number and therefore help us to turn a blind eye on some almost cringe worthy musical moments. Lyrics such as, ‘Sexy girls in the club/I’ll be whatever you want me to be’, are luckily able to take a back seat to the driving force of the song and the eventual rhythmic work in the synth keys while those words are being sung. Speaking of - the singing of Jonah Nilsson in general is so wonderfully acrobatic in skill, and with a tone so pure and just slightly Stevie Wonder-esque, that it makes up for any of the poorly worded songs. The two ballads on the album (‘It Hurts’ and ‘Crash and Burn Delight’) are also, unfortunately a wee too heavy on the drama both musically and lyrically but are still decent efforts and when they try to get ‘heavy’ on ‘Die For You’, the effort is appreciated and valued but they just don’t seem cut out to go the way of distortion as heard during the chorus (not yet, at least). The saving grace of all these choices they make that just barely miss the mark, is that they aren’t horrible. No track is worth a skip - it’s just compared to the richness and boldness of the rest of the album, these instances mentioned seem a little bland.
Fortunately, the majority of the album is so far beyond what you are used to hearing in a conventional pop setting that the moments the trio stumbles are so forgettable in the larger context. The frenetic, ‘Hit Me’ is quite possibly the best opening track of any album this year as they charge into the intro playing unison rhythmic hits and never letting up off the gas until they get to the end where Nilsson does some incredible vocal acrobatics, making a case for him to be considered one of the best vocalists on the scene right now. You wouldn’t hear Adam Levine trying this sort of stuff. ‘Sayonara Love’ boasts the funk of Parliament, a menacing verse and a chorus that is so emotionally well drawn out in the harmonic structure and as catchy as any chorus this year. The Stevie Wonder sounding (with a harmonica intro to boot), ‘Accidentally in Love’ pays tribute to the 70s R&B scene as only Dirty Loops can with another astoundingly rhythmic chorus. The real gem of the album however, is ‘Lost In You’. With its hand-clapping intro, perfectly arranged and not overdone horn section, and Henrik slapping all the nastiness out of his bass, it’s a mid-tempo power house of a track.
Loopified is not without its true freshman fumbles. Inexplicably there are two covers on the album (not the deluxe album, but the standard release). Now, we understand it was their song covers on YouTube that garnered them attention to begin with, but if they are really trying to make a name for themselves and put an end to being ‘that band that did a cool cover of a Bieber song’ to the masses, putting two covers on the album was not a great way of going about it. It’s actually disappointingly surprising and whoever in their management team suggested and/or allowed it, should be held for questioning. Worse still, the covers on show are another Bieber song, ‘Rollercoaster’ and the insanely successful hit from 2013, Avicii’s, ‘Wake Me Up’. The sad thing about this is that the ‘Wake Me Up’ cover is fantastic, with a phenomenal take on the ending of the original (it’s possibly the meanest they get on the entire album) and on a B-side or on the deluxe version, it would have been well received. However, covering a song on your album that was a huge hit just a year ago is just not cricket.
Regardless, for being their debut album, Loopified is immensely successful in showing how wonderfully creative they are at making pop music smart yet still seriously catchy. Yes, they trip over themselves a few times but for only a small amount of the time. Their incredible talent (again) and their ability to combine the best elements of pop music with the most accessible aspects of the Jazz/Fusion genre make this a stand-alone/nothing-like-it album. Get ready to open your ears to a new and unique sound and to let these guys blow you away.Andrew Scott Back
Andrew Scott ranks this as the
#10 favorite album of 2014