Indians - Somewhere Else
There's an ages-old tale that says you have to be different from the crowd to get anyone's undivided attention. Okay, that's probably not the exact wording, but you get the idea. The point is: if being different, new, and exciting is important, how did the relatively plain-sounding music of Indians (aka Søren Løkke Juul) catch the eye and ear of 4AD, one of the more prestigious and respected independent labels of today? From repeated listens I just can't figure out exactly what makes Indians' debut album Somewhere Else so special.
Maybe it's a testament to the current demand of folksy bedroom pop, but following in the heels of Youth Lagoon's The Year of Hibernation and Perfume Genius' Put Your Back N 2 It, Somewhere Else feels disappointingly less emotional than his equivalent contemporary musicians. There are moments of defiant joy, like the slow build and release of 'New', or how 'Lips Lips Lips' languidly rides a subtle kick drum to a beautiful ambient outro. But it's just hard to simply overlook when things begin sounding naively derivative.
To give Juul credit, his voice is versatile. 'Cakelakers', the jaunty folk single, flourishes with Juul's lo-fi filtered voice playing as a contrast to the soaring orchestral accompaniment. He sounds less comfortable (and less himself) when his falsetto breaks through the fog. It's especially easy on songs like 'Bird' and 'New' to mistake Søren's voice for a nervous version of Aaron Chapman of Portland, OR band Nurses. Elsewhere, 'La Femme' takes its soothing introduction into a distinctly Youth Lagoon-esque climax complete with hand clap samples straight out of 'Posters'. It's not anyone's fault that the majority of hand claps sound the same, but you have to wonder if along the way the thought ever occurred to try a tambourine or timpani; anything to break the standard.
Though if there's only one single criticism to be had about Somewhere Else, it's how disjointed it feels as a whole listening experience. Each time I listen through I find myself jumping around to the parts I like (the wonderful theremin section on 'Magic Kids', the relaxed and ethereal atmosphere of 'Melt') rather than experiencing it as a whole. With a ≈ voice and inclination to bounce from piano and strings immediately to arpeggiated synth and drum machines, Indians makes this feel like the quintessential debut album: a collection of great ideas without much purpose.
And in all fairness, that's not such an awful thing. A lot of the constructed narrative surrounding the Indians moniker has focused on his seemingly rapid rise to fame. His first ever gig was less than 12 months ago, and it seems only natural that someone who likely went from the daily routine of college and/or work to headlining a 40+ date American tour in less than a year's time would have more important things on his mind than pinning down a specific aesthetic on his first album. In reality, traveling the world in a sweaty van with like-minded musicians might be just the new outlook that could give us a more refined follow-up album in a couple of years.