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Emerald Park

One of music’s greatest assets is its ability to be malleable in the face of experience and the passing of time. And for Malmö, Sweden-based indie-pop group Emerald Park, this understanding lies at the heart of their often mesmerizing and skewed pop aesthetic. Driven by a need to explore the longing for brightness that comes from living in a country which is blanketed in darkness for most of the year, the band allows this pursuit of a rhythmic and emotional illumination to work its way throughout their songs. They craft a flexible sense of pop melancholy from their influences and are able to draw out a small sliver of hope from the resulting shadows.

Formed by singer/guitarist Tobias Borelius in 2002, Emerald Park was his lone musical territory until singer Martina Johansson joined in 2004. Their debut album, “Sadness Within” came out that same year, and since then, the band has had a revolving lineup of musicians, with Borelius and Johansson being the only constants. With the release of their 2008 sophomore record, “For Tomorrow,” which was produced by Ola Frick of The Moonbabies, their music was introduced to a whole new global audience, reaching people through various radio stations and online outlets. During 2010, the band cemented their current lineup of Tobias Borelius, Martina Johansson, guitarist Frans af Schmidt, bassist Conny Fridh, drummer Måns Katsler, keyboardist Daniel Gunneberg and singer/keyboardist Mattias Wilke.

In 2011, the band released their self-produced third album, “Absolute Zero,” and followed that up with the “Black Box EP” in 2013. Sharing a common love of acoustic guitars, ukuleles, piano and melodica, these releases found the band exploring a particularly pensive pop sound with an eclectic sense of composition and narrative structure. As with all their music, the songs were written first on acoustic guitar and then permitted to grow as each consecutive layer of sound was applied. With each iteration, the music was pushed forward by this idea of change and transformation—of taking the experience of creation and giving the notes time to shift and shape themselves accordingly.

But in 2015, Emerald Park have taken on a somewhat more divergent musical persona; it’s not wholly different than the band who recorded those earlier records, but it certainly feels like a band more enamored with this idea of transformation as a viable means of creative expression. For their latest record, “Go! Go! Go!,” which was recorded in Gunneberg’s basement, as well as in the studios of Ola Frick and Carl Granberg,  the band is still working within the same musical wheelhouse, but for the most part, they’ve left the acoustic guitars and ukuleles sitting on the studio floor. In their place, they’ve brought out a collection of Moogs, electric guitars, and various synthesizers to go along with lyrics that strive for a more instinctive and meditative tone than on previous outings.

The title track, “Go! Go! Go!,” was originally inspired by The National, with its deeply affecting vocals and churning melody, but after becoming motivated by songs from The xx and The Cure, they re-recorded it to focus more on the track’s inherent melancholy and immovable rhythms. “Liberteens” was written after the band had listened to Imogen Heap and was deciding on how best to incorporate Autotune into their music. “Hamburg” and “Graduation” were both produced by Ola Frick and display a certain pop weight that gives them the necessary force to draw out the corresponding emotional response in their audience.

The band deals with the death of an old relative on “Guiding Light,” and simply asks that you allow yourself to drift away to the music of “Wolf”--while the closing song, “Graduation,” recalls that unhurried summer experience and the feeling of complete freedom that it brings. These songs are more than just a series of notes strung together; they are the work of a band who is trying to carefully and meticulously describe the day-to-day events that shape our view of the world around us.

Drawing comparisons to (and inspiration from) acts like Arcade Fire, The Cure, The National and Swedish indie bands like Säkert and Kent, Emerald Park  don’t shy away from their influences but embrace and rearrange them in ways that speak to their unique pop talents. The band’s music is often capricious and prone to skip genres within the same song. And it’s this sense of rhythmic unpredictability that keeps them from ever sliding by on the strength of their influences alone.

As the musical landscape around them changes, the band likewise has adjusted their own perspective on certain things. In 2009, the band was contacted by an old friend who had started a net label which was releasing music under a Creative Commons license and who was looking to make their music available online. For Emerald Park, any non-commercial use was free but someone had to buy a license if they wanted to use the music in a commercial fashion. So while the band had received little to no monetary reimbursement from Spotify, their music had been heard millions of times through this online service. People began regularly contacting them in regards to using their music in documentaries, on blogs and in various homemade videos. Just on music website Jamendo, they’ve received over 3.5 million listens in the past few years.

When asked what advice they’d give to aspiring musicians, the band replied, “Never forget why you started playing in the first place. Love the music and love your songs. Take care of them as if they were your ring and you were Gollum.”  They continued, “The band is bigger than yourself. Do not take it personal. Take it easy!” And so the strange and wild path that Emerald Park has traversed throughout their career has taken them from their Americana roots through experiments in indie rock and electronic pop—and it’s within these definite and tangible experiences that the band has discovered the power and resourcefulness that comes from a continual  and progressive musical evolution.

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"GO!GO!GO! reminds us that there is still brightness amidst shadows. Listening to these lighthearted anthems gives you a sense of upliftment, making every day a bit brighter." [6/23/2015]

Frostwire

"The Swedish group has paired synths and moogs with clear cut beats and electric guitar, and brought in producers Ola Frick of Moonbabies and Carl Granberg (Robyn, Danko Jones) for a fresh electropop sound." [6/29/15]

Ian Hays- Culture Collide

"'GO!GOGO!' Makes it tingle in my stomach, the glorious synth loop and the danceable beats are really promising. It sounds a bit like Depeche Mode and the lyrics really lifts the song to another level. LiberTeens is a bit more traditional indie-sounding and Martina Johansson's vocals makes a lasting impression." [6/17/2015]

Emma Arpstrand- Hymn

"'Wolf' is a track for those nights when you just can't sleep. Sonically, it's a perfect example of the play between indie alt-pop/rock and their new love for electro pop. While the verses are dominated by a melodic bass line, the chorus blooms with synths and keys that flutter and dance. The whole track is coated with atmospherics that gently caress a distorted guitar trying so hard to break free." [5/11/15] 

Culture Collide

"Full of bright, catchy songs and refreshingly free of artifice. The album doesn’t come with a built-in gimmick or a breathless press release proclaiming the band’s indie credibility. Instead, the band simply delivers 45-plus minutes of well-written, likable songs.” - Chris Conation, PopMatters.com

Chris Conation, PopMatters.com
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Måns Katsler, Conny Fridh, Tobias Borelius, Frans Af Schmidt, Martina Johansson, Daniel Gunnerberg, Mattias Wilke Photo Credit: Jens Ohlsson Download larger image
Måns Katsler, Conny Fridh, Tobias Borelius, Frans Af Schmidt, Martina Johansson, Daniel Gunnerberg, Mattias Wilke Photo Credit: Jens Ohlsson Download larger image
Måns Katsler, Conny Fridh, Tobias Borelius, Frans Af Schmidt, Martina Johansson, Daniel Gunnerberg, Mattias Wilke Photo credit: Jens Ohlsson Download larger image

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