Review: Muxika77 - Death and the Magpie

Swedish indie album that might save you this winter

(One of) the musical tradition(s) of Tom Waits, with the sound of a band playing in a small studio with plucking of guitars and short percussive instruments, slowly delivering complex structured songs with a total sense of clarity and self-evidence. A type of modern indie music which takes careful laborations and rehersals to actually work, this is the base for Stockholm artist Johan Krantz' project Muxika77. Byggnaden (above) is the Quack's favourite song off brand new album Death and the Magpie, which came out on Nov 28. Perhaps because the strings in this song makes one think of Lhasa de Sela, another disciple of Waits. And yet there's so much more here. There's the vocal tenderness making us think of Nicolai Dunger's finest moments. There are the amazing choir parts leaving us without references. There are the messy, long instrumental parts with whinging guitars and grinding strings freaking out in the most exquisite Godspeed! You Black Emperor style. There's a story slowly unfolding in 3D.

That reference to GYBE might not have been there if it wasn't for the album's opening, Agelstern Varwe, which starts in Montréal only to land in more of an Iron&Wine landscape. At 8:51, this song plays out the largescale structure ambitions of the album, with several connected segments slowly forming a grande whole. The strength here is how the instrumental parts actually enforce the vocal segments melodically. And amazingly, listening to the many long songs on the album, in the end they all feel rather short, probably a result of the comfort delivered to the listener, and the musical logic which lies underneath all the parts of each song.

This song, Corvidae Necklace, is a great example of how good this album is musically. With its subtle folksy beginning, it's standup piano and slide guitars, with its simple melody hooks it would be enough for a decent song. But Krantz goes one step further and lets the song go into bloom with a melancholic Scandinavian march, filling that small Waitsy room to the brim without ever letting it get crowded. The melodies of the vocals and the instruments carefully rephrase one another creating this subtle elusive quality to the entire song, an effect so difficult to catch when making melodious music. So lovely, we melt.

To conclude this review, this is a truly great Swedish indie album that should not be missed by any fan of Waits, Iron&Wine, Jens Lekman or Fleet Foxes. Because not only does it touch the music of all these artists and bands, it has a great spirit all of its own and musical subtleties that just might save you this dark winter.

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