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The Cardigans
LONG GONE BEFORE DAYLIGHT
(Koch)
Stars graphics

When Swedenís Cardigans emerged in the mid í90s with First Band on the Moon (Minty Fresh), they had the good fortune to be misperceived as a lounge-pop band. That had everything to do with the torch-singer quality of alluring frontwoman Nina Perssonís vocal approach and the suave, electronically embellished sound theyíd stumbled upon. And though Perssonís backing band were said to have had some jazz training (as well an affinity for heavy metal), little of that surfaced on the first CD or its follow-up, Emmerdale. (They did, however, cover a couple of Black Sabbath tunes, both reconfigured to fit their own smooth sound.) As the exotica craze died down, the Cardigans found themselves without much of an American audience, and Persson spent time branching out into soundtrack work.

But they never did break up, and theyíve returned to an indie label here in the US for their fifth album. Persson remains a subtle singer, but the band have abandoned the shtick of those early albums in favor of straightforward, confessional, often melancholy singer-songwriterly pop. All traces of the trip-hop grooves and electro-organic instrumentation have disappeared in favor of trad guitar/bass/drums arrangements. Perssonís presence as a vocalist hasnít diminished ó indeed, there are hints here of what Aimee Mannís been up to for the past few years. (When the guitars get a bit twangy, thereís even a little Lucinda Williams in the new Cardigans sound.) With its moody, late-night feel, Long Before Daylight is what people tend to refer to as a more "mature" or "serious" album, a nice way of saying that itís not as much fun as a First Band on the Moon. But it never fails to hit its musical mark. And sad songs have an emotional payoff that transcends the novelty of a swinging "Iron Man."

(The Cardigans perform this Tuesday, May 11, at T.T. the Bearís Place, 10 Brookline Street in Central Square, with Jonathan Rice opening; call 617-492-BEAR.)

BY MATT ASHARE


Issue Date: May 7 - 13, 2004
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