I’m From Barcelona are not from Barcelona. Or even Spain. Don’t put too much thought into it, though, or the fact that their band rivals Polyphonic Spree in membership, as quandaries concerning the name or their absurd amount of band members (now totaling 27) dissolve the moment their sunshiny brand of indie pop begins playing. Proudly touting the mantra, “Less is not more”, the Swedish outfit enthusiastically indulge in creating the most immense, fullest sound possible, and have consistently done so throughout their career. Their live shows are infamous parties as opposed to straightforward concerts, although their last release put a bit of a damper on the fun. Fortunately, their newest effort, Forever Today, brings back the trademark sunshine and smiles of I’m From Barcelona’s music that Who Killed Harry Houdini? let fall by the wayside. With 10 tracks filled to the brim with an abundance of horns, handclaps, and group sing-alongs, the album is literally impossible not to enjoy – and the now 27 member strong Swedish collective has presented their most fun outing yet.
The album begins with upbeat ditty “Charlie Parker”, cooing choruses of “Come on, sing to me now Bird” atop a sprightly combination of piano, synth, chimes, and strumming guitars. The energy is contagious, with frontman Emmanuel Lundgren’s enthused performance leading the charge, and fully sets the stage for the rest of the album. The band succeeds in creating an overall youthful aesthetic for the album, as each song is rich in bubbly melodies, pulsating percussion, and easily accessible and memorable lyrics. The imagery of spring and sunshine is abundant, as are pseudo-inspirational lines, repeated ad nauseam, such as “We don’t want to get in line!”, encouraging individualism in a conformist world. The formula works phenomenally in creating really solid, fun pop songs – all 10 of Forever Today‘s tracks are well composed, well executed, and irresistibly catchy.
At the same time, though, this formulaic approach leads to most of the tracks being almost indistinguishable from one another. Fortunately, the album evades monotony because of how short it is (clocking in at barely over 32 minutes) and I’m From Barcelona’s commanding incessant zest for life and childlike wonderment for the world around them. With the cascading horns and handclaps, it’s really difficult to not agree when Lundgren croons that “Somewhere it’s always spring”, even on the rainiest of days, or oblige to the whimsy of “Battleships”‘s “shooting stars, fireworks, and neon lights.” The album not only describes iconic images of youth with the enthusiasm of a child, but calls for a return to those days of innocence and unbridled joy. The highest points of the album are those with the collective nostalgia, inspiring chills and huge smiles – notably on tracks such as “Come On” with its criticism of stereotypical work life, encouraging enjoyment instead of wasting away working, all atop a spunky trumpet solo.
The one time that the childlike exuberance is almost too much is near the end of the “Dr. Landy”, when the band breaks into a triumphant singalong of “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star”. Although not incongruous with the rest of the album, the appeal to everyone’s nostalgic longing for childhood innocence and simplicity seems forced and too contrived here. Luckily, “Game is On” follows and compensates with gradually layered vocals and the deepest lyrics of the album. Clocking in at nearly five minutes, the track feels like a conclusion to a musical, lamenting the setting of the sun but triumphantly declaring, “The night’s so young” to a powerful chorus of “ahhs”.
It’s refreshing from time to time just to hear a solid collection of pop songs not feeling compelled to change the face of music, but to simply have a good time and play music for the sake of loving music. I’m From Barcelona have greatly refined their brand of pop into the sweetest of sugar, and, despite its undeniable flaws and perhaps excessive happiness, Forever Today is undoubtedly a great treat to spin on a sunny summer day.