At first (aural) glance, “I Can Try” succeeds nicely as a sweeping piece of orchestrated twee pop. Which is almost just fine. Except for the fact that each time I go back to listen, things get more complicated and unusual-sounding. To begin with, what’s with the drumming? You’ve got the snare going full-blast, but delivering that shuffled up third beat—especially pronounced in the chorus, it happens throughout the song, and, in combination with that unrelenting double-time high-hat, creates a chugging rhythm that simultaneously barrels forward and hesitates.
Then there’s the melody, which is certainly as sweet-sad as the genre requires, and yet there’s something more to it. The melody in both the verse and the chorus is a nice long line, the verse melody resolving with an upward tilt while the chorus offers a steady downward release. But here’s an odd thing: the melody in the chorus extends for nine measures, which is not only unusual but difficult. Typically pop songs are constructed around sets of four measures or eight measures. It’s what the music often demands and our ears almost always expect. Here an extra measure sneaks in without causing the slightest fuss. And yet somewhere deep down we sense something’s off balance. That’s not very twee. The orchestration likewise isn’t quite what it seems. We hear strings near the beginning and think, “Oh, of course.” But it’s a string quartet, not a string section, and they spend more time stabbing staccato riffs than bowing maudlin flourishes. And when the horns arrive—the horns must always arrive—it’s a saxophone. Whatever became of the saxophone, anyway?
“I Can Try” is from the third Sambassadeur album, Europeans, released on Labrador Records in February. The Gothenburg-based quartet has been previously featured on Fingertips twice, once for each of its first two albums, in 2005 and in 2007. MP3 via Labrador.