Retro Stefson – Retro Stefson (Republic Of Music)
25 March 2013
Icelandic septet Retro Stefson are described as ‘alternative pop’. Being a fan of both genres, our man Paul Scott-Bates seemed like the obvious choice to review it.
Making a complete sweeping generalisation, I liked the idea of another band from the home of Sigur Ros and Bjork. What I found was a group making sublime pop, almost damn near perfect pop, with an appeal that saw them scoop three Icelandic music awards in March. Taking their influences from pop, indie and dance, their sound nestles nicely somewhere between Erasure, A-ha and Daniel Bedingfield and is actually a breath of fresh air in today’s manufactured pop environment.
There’s a definite Moby (Porcelain) influence to opener ‘Solaris’, a gentle start with a near falsetto voice almost whispering just slightly behind the mix, and, a wonderful snared drum effect to the unusual beginning which heralds a very promising start to the album.
Single ‘Glow’, which has already topped the charts in their homeland, has a sort of house bassline and an incredibly catchy melody to the chorus. Both male and female voices and a good percussive beat. As a fan of a good pop song (the likes of which are few and far between nowadays) and of something slightly offbeat, ‘Glow’ is something I can show a lot of affection to. Already being championed by UK radio stations it’s a hugely catchy track with a few Latin influences that could well see them break over here, in Europe and quite possibly beyond. Þorbjörg Roach Gunnarsdóttir adds her rather lovely soft vocals and the video could quite possibly be used by the Reykjavik Tourist Board!
Brothers Unnsteinn and Logi Stefánsson have been making music since the age of 16, and if this, their third album, is anything to go by, they have clearly mastered the art of writing good and endearing pop without becoming totally twee. ‘Qween Popular’ and ‘Miss Nobody’ further endorse the claim. The later having an almost mardis gras drumbeat to the chorus which launches into a brilliant anthemic guitar sound after a couple of minutes.
At the risk of repeating myself, the delightful pop sound continues. ‘Tim’ would have been a big hit in the 80s or early 90s, and, that is may be where their undoubted talent lies. Taking a slightly dated recipe incorporating great melodies and fusing them with very up-to-date effects and sounds. For someone of ‘an age’ like me, it’s actually refreshing to hear songs of this quality from a group so young, with the clear ability to create something new but familiar.
‘(O)Kami’ again has some pretty nifty effects and ‘She Said’ (probably the most commercial track on the album) echoes moments from Daniel Bedingfields monster hit ‘Gotta Get Thru This’
Only on closer ‘Julia’ does the album take a breath and starts slowly, gradually building to a frantic drumbeat before fading out once more before an inevitable second listen of the album.
In short, this is a fine collection of songs for those who enjoy a bit of slightly alternative pop. Keep an eye open for these lads and lasses.
All words by Paul Scott-Bates. More of Paul’s writing on Louder Than War can be found here. Paul’s website is Heaven Is A Place On Pendle. Paul has been working hard to save Radio Lancashire’s On The Wire, easily one of the best radio shows on the BBC. Follow him on twitter as @saveonthewire for all On The Wire news or follow his personal twitter, @hiapop.