Under Review: Peter Bjorn And John – Living Thing

Peter Bjorn And John - Living Thing

Last year, when I reviewed The Black KeysAttack & Release, I mentioned that Brian “Danger Mouse” Burton and Mark Ronson were bringing the spotlight back to the producer’s chair. I neglected to include the middle child of Peter Bjorn And John, keyboardist/producer Bjorn Yttling, who has been making quite a name for himself, both within and outside of his (partly) namesake band. In the past few years, Yttling has worked with Primal Scream, the Shout Out Louds, the Caesars and Lykke Li, to name a few. His work with Li may have proved the greatest influence on his own band’s latest album, Living Thing, as the minimalist electro-sass that made Li’s Youth Novels so much fun returns here in abundance. Beginning with the kettle drum- and vocals-as-rhythm-sampling “The Feeling,” Living Thing’s mood is immediately set as much darker than its proper predecessor, 2006’s Writer’s Block. It may have been a conscious move to not try to replicate the playful back-and-forth of “Young Folks,” but the group’s new direction is intriguing if not instantly inviting. The record’s strongest element is its cohesive sound, with many unusual instruments showing up more than once, such as bass-heavy slide guitar (“4 Out Of 5,” the title track), and arty but noisy synth effects (“It Don’t Move Me,” “Blue Period Picasso”). It’s hard to forget, though, that the trio are still a pop group, and even with the change of tone they deliver some outlandishly smart singles, including “Nothing To Worry About,” with its children’s choir echoing the chorus in Lykke Li’s “Breaking It Up,” and the bouncy but obscene “Lay It Down,” which will hopefully be edited for airplay soon. Different as it may sound from the group’s previous efforts, Living Thing shouldn’t come as a complete surprise, as last year’s mostly-instrumental Seaside Rock hinted at the guys’ more experimental leanings. It’s that combination of outsider art (“I’m Losing My Mind”) and unabashed sweetness (“I Want You!”) that makes Living Thing so enjoyable. And don’t fret if you can’t whistle along; there isn’t any on this record, and it’s hardly missed one bit.

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~ by E. on June 2, 2009.

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