When Steve Buscemi’s Dreamy Eyes arrived on the music scene in 2016 with their scintillating debut single, “Desire”, they immediately jumped into the “most promising Swedish band” category. They were quickly signed to Swedish boutique indie label Rama Lama Records, who have since supported Tilde Hansen (vocals/bass), Siri Sjöberg (vocals/synth), Edvin Arleskär (drums), Elias Mahfoud (guitar). For the next three years, the quartet released glimmering dream-pop and indie pop-rock songs, yet the big breakthrough alluded them. A brief hiatus followed for the band to re-group and re-charge. Then in late 2019, they quietly returned and announced their long-awaited debut album was coming. Fittingly on Valentine’s Day, Sweetie was finally unveiled.
Like a bouquet of flowers, Sweetie is a dozen songs, and each has its own unique characteristics. As a whole, though, the arrangement is dazzling. Opener “Moon” foreshadows what is to come. It is dance-inspired dream-pop, where every note induces one to move. Although the image of a moon indicates the end of a day, for Steve Buscemi’s Dreamy Eyes the song represents renewal and hope. The bouncy and addictive “Stainless Steel” is highlighted by Mahfoud’s jangly guitar and Arleskär’s Peter Hook-esque bass line. Similar to “Moon”, the track is about wiping the slate clean and starting anew. As such, it could be considered the band’s anthem.
The LP is filled with other jubilant songs. Adding a heavy dose of Yumi Zouma-esque disco-pop to their dreamy sound, “For Ezra” and “Future Is Dance” are made for the disco halls that still populate Sweden. They are technicolor in their scope, radiating with a wide array of sound and textures. Throbbing rhythms, sizzling synths, a chiming guitar, and the spellbinding vocals of Hansen and Sjöberg transport listeners to another era if not dimension. Even when Mahfoud assumes a bigger role as vocalist, such as on the Joy Division-meets-New Order “Destination”, the effect is one of bliss. “What’s your destination? Are you ready for a new sensation?”, sings Hansen, as if she’s preparing us for what else to come. Preparing us to come out of our own skin and live life.
At the center of this magnificent bouquet is “Intern”. The song is at times gripping and haunting, and other moments it reaches euphoric, anthemic levels. A tidal wave of emotions result from this track about doing the impossible, including winning the love of another. “I’ll show you my specialty”, the band desperately hollers together.
Even when the band slows down the tempo ever so slightly, intoxication still occurs. Like an Andy Warhol painting, “Set Me Free” seems simple, yet it is complex and colorful as multiple genres are woven together. As Sjöberg repeats during the sublime conclusion, “Hoping for somebody to set us free”, the song leaves a lasting mark. On “Forever”, deliver their Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde track. The first half is smokey and edgy, as the song patiently churns through a methodical, bleak landscape. Nothing is hurried, not even Hansen’s hypnotic vocals. Then the tide turns, and the pace quickens and the intensity increases. Akin to that great story, the song is a reawakening to reality and losing someone close or even one’s innocence.
This sense of vulnerability is repeated on “Change of Heart” and “Distances”. On the former, Sjöberg recounts the experiences of friends and family members in the wake of hardline decisions made by the Swedish government. As a the trembling ’80s dark-pop approach reaches its majestic climax, she is left alone and “hoping for a radical”. The latter, meanwhile, is a melodic, breathtaking number. Hansen and Sjöberg share the vocal lead, and they reminisce about the days spent together and the individual paths they all will follow. That eventually they must go their separate ways, but no matter the distances they will still have something special. And that thing is Sweetie, which is an album to not only celebrate but to cherish.
Sweetie is available on the usual streaming sites. Physical and download copies can also be ordered on Bandcamp.
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