David & the Citizens' first full-length release in the United States, Until the Sadness is Gone, is perfectly executed indie pop. The heart of the music lies within the familiar guitar, bass, drums, and singer paradigm. Lead David Fridlund's voice embodies indie heart-on-your-sleeve earnestness and on first listen it seems to be just that--like a Swedish Rhett Miller of the Old 97's fused with Dashboard Confessional's Chris Carrabba.
But piled on top of this familiar foundation is a mash-up of instrumentation, including trumpet from Magnus Bjerkert, sweeping strings, punchy keyboards, even a klezmer vibe that makes the songs so catchy and polished, so enjoyable that it's difficult to turn off. Each time it's over you're ready to listen again.
The tiny Brooklyn-based label Friendly Fire Recordings, which successfully launched Japanese band Asobi Seksu into college and indie radio phenomenon status in 2006, is intending the same for David & the Citizens. They've been around in some form since 1999, and have generated a significant buzz in Sweden and throughout Europe. Until the Sadness is Gone was recorded in Malmö, Sweden (a small southern city that is also home to the Cardigans), and produced by Jens Lindgård, who has worked with Franz Ferdinand, The Cardigans, and St. Etienne.
That said, there is nothing inherently Swedish about this album, except maybe that Fridlund's almost generic vocals become somehow endearing despite their proximity to indie cliché. I can't help thinking that I might find this album more enjoyable if he was singing in Swedish. However, Fridlund's delivery works in English. He juxtaposes angst and joy and laces it with a whimsical delivery that feels decidedly un-American.
These particular qualities are especially displayed in "Never a Bottom," where Fridlund's vocals are embellished by Sara Culler's harmonies. The song first pounces with melancholy horns and guitar then suddenly softens to piano and voice, then it's layered with strings. By the second verse Culler chimes in; the measures where she appears are the vocal highlights of the album.