Opening with a nostalgic electronic flourish, “Out of Time” pulses into an appealing synth rocker with a driving backbeat and a seductive sense of understated drama. In fact one of the things I love most here is the ongoing tension on display between this song’s anthemic inclinations and front man Martin Nordvall’s palpable restraint in presentation. The chorus, first heard at 0:31, has all the makings of an emotive earworm, but listen to how delicately Nordvall uses his baritone here—he’s all but whispering. He’s also setting you up: when the chorus returns (1:24), we get the same melody, but Nordvall now sings it an octave higher. See for yourself what a difference this makes. With that staccato bass line, revolving synthesizer riff, and now-majestic chorus, I’m getting a strong scent of the New Romantic movement here, which sounds oddly refreshing in 2020.
At the same time: this no mere ’80s retread. The Sweet Serenades have been at it since 2002, for many years as a duo; by now, Nordvall brings his own gravitas to the table. I’m always amused—and sometimes even entertained—by young musicians sporting some sort of throwback ’70s or ’80s look and sound. There isn’t necessarily anything wrong with that sort of homage; all musicians worth their salt are inspired by sounds that came before them. But I feel much more convinced when someone with an ear for a bygone time proceeds to sit with it, live with it, develop it. Musicians who learn to let their influences breathe in new ways often end up having the most, themselves, to say.
Nordvall hails from the village of Timrå, some four hours north of Stockholm. “Out of Time” is a track from the band’s forthcoming album, City Lights, which was recorded last year in Stockholm and due out in March. The Sweet Serenades were featured once before on Fingertips, in May 2009; the band was a duo back then.