Survival is the fourth album of the Swedish indie-pop band which are not actually newbies around here. Sambassadeur were formed in 2003, releasing their debut and self-titled album in 2004, followed by Migration in 2007. Now starting to get attention by the major critics, they released their third LP European in 2010 and an EP, an A-side and B-side singles, Memories/Hours Away in 2012 (their latest work until now). After a 7-year hiatus, they return with a striking full-length. A beautiful piece, refreshing and modern, that places the band where they belong, as a matured, talented and creative project.
The album opens with the first single Foot Of Afrikka. This is a smooth and summery pop track, with a touch of dreamy and space sonority they’ve already got us used to. The song is a complex harmony between strings, vocals and a joyful compass by the drums. Reminding a lot Belle & Sebastian and Melody’s Echo Chamber, the LA-style with British melancholic-pop mixed gives a colorful ambient to the whole song and evidently contagious.
Stuck is the second track and the second released single as well (which was also launched with a remixed version). This is a much more dynamic and danceable track, like if it belongs to the 80’s and the beginning of synths. The vocals are always quite dreamy and somehow ethereal. Actually, the band’s sonority seems to be all ethereal in this album, waving within the air.
The third track is somewhere in between the previous ones: Orustfjord has a Nordic name but it sounds tropical and is more pop-ish than the rest. One thing we know for sure is that none of the Sambassadeur’s songs sound repetitive or at some point a replica of anything else. The band’s musicality is unique and that is felt in this track more than ever. It looks like they’ve reinvented their mark and turned it into a defined genre. A beautiful one!
Orustfjord at some point sounds like a hymn, with some epic elements and an instrumental build-up engaging gorgeously well with the vocals and opening the doors for 41. A ballad, once again supported by a string arrangement, finger-picking guitars and a waltz compass. It becomes experimental and maybe psychedelic in the meantime, but quickly comes back to the dreamy smiley vibe we already get used to.
The band accelerates again, escaping from the ballad mood and exploring again the pop-rock (some sort of). Kors is rhythmic and young, bringing memories of US shoegaze bands, exciting and raw sonority that they mix here with sparkling elements. As every song, Sambassadeur’s music is glitter and shine, colorful and blissful as it sounds.
Their older influences are always noticeable in every music, from the 60’s to the 90’s and The Fall is not an exception. The dynamism the band prints in every song is the same they’ve put in the whole album structure. We can never get bored while listening to this record as it varies in every song, flash-forwarding and slowing-down from time to time, from one song to another. And that eerie is what captivates us the most.
The album closes with another ballad and a reprise-like track. Firstly, Roads is the most smooth and chilled song, almost whispering in our ears, just like a sweet lullaby. Once again, the instrumental composition is complex, innovating and uplifting; the song itself grows in space but seems to lose weight, being lighter every second. Then Ex On The Beach closes the album as a false rhythmic song, it seems to be in slow motion, as it was slowing the time in order not come to an end. Or at least we like to imagine that since we don’t want it to end.
Sambassadeur created in Survival a piece of art, an eclectic yet “auto-genre” sonority, not exploring too far from their mark but always forcing themselves creating what seems to be something brand-new in every song they present. Listening to Survival is like traveling: we go North to the Swedish fiords, we go to sunny LA beaches, to the melancholic and beautiful British gardens, Caribbean sunsets and even to Heaven.