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Monday, March 26, 2012

The Cardigans -- Gran Turismo


The Cardigans' Gran Turismo begins with the sound of someone whistling.  Usually for The Cardigan's this would be a prelude to something whimsical--not this time. The whistling runs into a brick wall of a beat which seems to say, "you cannot advance."  A byzantine guitar riff reminiscent of "House of the Rising Sun," rises up from nowhere only to collapse into an industrial-sounding scratch.  What band is this?
The Cardigans of Gran Turismo are a band who finally sound like the sentiments their vocalist is expressing.  Gran Turismo is irony free. The keyboard is far darker, more dance music in sound than fun-time sixties organ.  The drums are electric and sterile throughout.  Bass grooves are heavy.  This sounds more like Portishead than The Cardigans, and I mean that as a compliment, but also not as a detriment to the way The Cardigans normally sound. Through the lens of this new sound, the similarities between the lyrics of Portishead's Beth Gibbons and The Cardigans' Nina Persson are even more apparent.
The easiest way to describe the wordplay of both is "cynical."  Love hasn't been kind to them, or at least the "them" the two are projecting.  However, Gran Turismo contains another element of Portishead's that lends its darker impulses listenability: this album is great chill out music. While the opening track is a bit unnerving, the slow, heavy beats and relaxed, yet bleak futuristic lounge sound the majority of Gran Turismo inhabits is quite calming.

At this point I also need to mention the maturation of Nina Persson's voice. On the first few Cardigans' albums, Nina was new to singing publicly, but she sounds extremely confident here, and her voice is far more full and powerful. Gran Turismo contains a few rockers, and she holds her own quite well, even if her tattoos are painted on.

1998 Mercury
1.  Paralyzed 4:56
2.  Erase/Rewind 3:38
3.  Explode 4:04
4.  Starter 3:53
5.  Hanging Around 3:44
6.  Higher 4:32
7.  Marvel Hill 4:15
8.  My Favourite Game 3:40
9.  Do You Believe 3:22
10.  Junk of the Hearts 4:08
11.  Nil 2:17

Proof that you've made it:

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