Album Review: Terrible Feelings – “Shadows”

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Ever wondered what it would’ve sounded like if Patti Smith actually had recorded any really good songs? The kind that makes you pull over to the side of the road, with the engine running, leaving you with a blank stare and the question ringing:

“Where the hell did this come from?”

Well, in this case the answer is Malmö, nominated “hipster capital of Sweden” by local media, and, “the most dangerous place in Europe” according to FOX News. The band is called Terrible Feelings and “Shadows” is the full length debut of this sombre quartet.

I must admit that my expectations were set real high for this one. Ever since I discovered Terrible Feelings late last year, I have flipped their 7″s like burgers on the turntable. I say “flipped” because the three singles that they released in 2011 cannot be divided into A-sides and B-sides, they are all delicious. Their haunting yet catchy sound struck a chord with me the moment I heard “Impending Doom” on the radio and I was not alone. They already have a dedicated following not only in Europe but also in the US and Japan.

For a jaded connoisseur of power pop, a line-up of of a female vocalist fronting a band of sharp-dressed gentlemen invokes casual references to bands like Blondie. But any similarities end there. Terrible Feelings could perhaps be described as Blondie’s dark-haired, troubled sister. Thematically they move through existential territories, true to their name (with song titles like “Sleep as Deep as the Sea” and “Darkness of Man”). The music is some kind of dark power-pop, a blend of post-punk and garage rock with a melodic sensibilty that adds up to a unique and distinct flavor, much due to the deep poetic and powerful voice of singer Manuela Iwansson. Imagine if The Doors had appeared in Manchester in 1979, sharing rehearsal-space with The Buzzcocks.

Opening track “Days to Come” sets the tone for the album and presents a musical structure that is recurrent in many of the songs: A verse situated in the minor scale builds up a suspense that is released in a harmonic and melodic chorus, and occasionally a bridge with an outlandish reach. “Intruders”, which has been available online for some time, stands out as the most charismatic piece, while a song like “Wicked Skull (pt.1)” explores the cinematic landscape of instrumental songwriting. They are at their best when up-beat and melodic at the same time, while a song like “Another Night” never really takes off and feels like a transportation. All in all, however, it is an album crafted with dramaturgical precision and those prosaic moments are rare.

“Shadows” contains twelve songs and I am impressed how they have managed to put together a full album without including any of the songs from last year’s singles, still I cannot help thinking that the record would have benefited from one or two of the strong tracks off of that output.

Perhaps the celebratory tone of this review calls for a disclaimer: I have no relations with this band whatsoever. They convinced me through their songs alone and that experience is too good to keep to myself.



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