Loney, DearLoney, Noir
Essential: "I am John"
For those who have never visited Sweden, listening to recent popular Swedish music may be a bad thing, conjuring up images of a place where people stare out the window dreamily and experiment with instruments in their basements all day. And that's exactly how Emil Svanangen (a.k.a. Loney, Dear), Sweden's latest pop sensation, wrote his debut album, "Loney, Noir." Actually, the album is only a debut in that a credible label released it; Svanangen self-recorded and sold thousands of albums in the past few years, strictly via word of mouth. His airy, high-pitched voice and innocently contemplative outlook would make it easy to slot him under that term that all musicians hate: twee. Twee or not, there is a brilliant simplicity to Svanangen's music, though the tunes are never sparse. Svanangen plays multiple instruments and recruited several musicians to join him on "Loney, Noir," resulting in 10 meticulously crafted, tremendously orchestral songs. "I must never let you down," Svanangen sings assuredly on "I Am John," and then scratching bass, thundering drums, and tinkling xylophones swirl in, the tempo speeds up, and he has followed through on his promise. [Caitlin E. Curran]