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Love in Stockholm | Hold Back the Sun

album review by John Powell

Love in Stockholm | Hold Back the Sun

This album is awesome. Soul laced with rock and blues ala early Rod Stewart (before the cliché). Horns and loose cannon fire guitar, a tight rhythm section, powerful keys- well, they all make great songs, but if the band’s a stick of dynamite, then Charlie Rockwell is the match. His voice is what makes Love in Stockholm a mighty force.

While this isn’t the full-length joyride that was 2010’s A King’s Ransom, these seven tracks push the limits of an EP, even if the songs are generally a compacted three minutes. In the end, any quantity at any length by these guys is better than nothing.

The first single and opener, “Drugstore Animal”, is quintessential LIS- blistering horns, romping keys, delectable backing vocals, and Charlie moving the scope of his vocal range, spouting nearly cohesive narratives. “All my life,” he sings, “better get up/ better get out/ gettin’ to the places I need to go.”

The album doesn’t hold back thematically: the tough times of twentysomethings in the city, searching for a balance and all the while just wanting to drink and get laid. This isn’t without substance, however. Charlie sings to the everyman, knowing full well that this style of music could dilute into love-song drivel. Not here, Pleasing to the dance-a-holics and the lyric-lovers both.

Leave it to the horns and the guitar to work together, perpetuating blues riffs and soul harmonies, linking in the sound and leaving you turning the volume up. On “Anywhere But Here”, the drums and bass play large roles, tying in indie rock. The band as a unit dips and soars through tempo and intensity, pulling you into the stories. When Charlie begs, “Where do you go/ when the bars close down?” you feel for him. He’s both callous to the same ole’ same ole’ and also not over the pains of being young at heart.

“West Virginia” is so smooth that it sounds like a cover song. The piano, ala old school Elton John, sets the swing, and the lyrics are learnable and singable instantly. “When I was down on the back roads/ I could see the smoke/ coming from the mission,” Charlie sings, and in the chorus he adds, “I’m stuck inside the mission/ underneath the chapel floor.”

“Meghan” is similar, harkening to “Maggie Mae” and other songs about women that wreck a man and also build him up. “Although three years have passed/ and we’ve gone our separate ways/ I need to tell you/ Meghan/ sweet Meghan,” Charlie sings, and you can hear his smirk coming through the speakers.

The odd twist is the finale, “Ulysses”, a strange narrative where Charlie gets away with the phrase “seeking vengeance,” his voice covered in a vocoder. But then things clear up and the chorus, raging in gospel style frenzy- plus harmonica- let’s you know everything’s going to be okay.

Really, the only critique is that this album feels half finished. Seven songs is almost enough to slake our thirst for Love in Stockholm’s sweet sounds, both country grit and city blues. We’re left wanting more, but maybe that’s a good thing. These guys are a drug, so pacing ourselves is a good idea.

Bottom line: Soul, horns, gritty guitar, bass, and drums, soaring keys, and a voice like no other. What are you waiting for?


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