Album Review: Loney, Dear – Hall Music

In his native Sweden, Emil Svanängen recorded four albums in his parents’ basement, and self-released them under the moniker Loney, Dear. These albums became something of a word-of-mouth phenomenon, eventually leading to his third LP, Loney, Noir, getting the reissue treatment by heavy-hitters Sub Pop. Svanängen continued to record at home for his Polyvinyl debut, Dear John, and, following an American tour with label mates Asobi Seksu, Svanängen returned to Sweden to perform a series of shows with chamber orchestras.

Although the works of Loney, Dear have always been densely layered, these orchestral experiences have left a clear mark on Svanängen’s aptly-titled new album, Hall Music. Svanängen’s signature intricately composed harmonies and synth are still layered on, but are now intermingled with organic strings, and a church-like vibe. Opener “Name” hints that Hall Music might be an overwhelmingly sorrowful affair, thanks to what comes across as an amalgamation of vintage keyboards and a possessed organ, but “My Heart” chimes in with the majestic sort of church bells and choir that recall an uplifting Christmas service.

Svanängen’s voice is the kind of delicate entity that was made for the heartfelt. It makes for above-average twee/folk pop on “Durmoll” and “Loney Blues”, but “Young Heart” proves especially affecting, as it pushes the range of his falsetto. “What Have I Become” is another stunner, featuring previous collaborator Malin StÃ¥hlberg taking over vocals for the one-man orchestra, ending Hall Music on a lighter note. Hall Music offers some thrilling contrasts, both in style and mood, giving Loney, Dear’s sound a more orchestral makeover. It might be the realization of the Loney, Dear dream, but Hall Music is also a delight in the world of chamber pop.

Essential Tracks: “Young Heart”, “What Have I Become”


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