Since his band, the Tough Alliance, stopped making music in 2010, Swedish musician Eric Berglund moved on to make sugary, wondrous pop music under the moniker ceo. Introducing his sophomore album, WONDERLAND, with a nearly inscrutable and abstract all-lowercase screed, Berglund promised to make your “head [spin] so much you feel like hopping between neon glowing islands on a quad bike.” The enigmatic pop mastermind and Sincerely Yours co-founder wasn’t far off, as the resulting record is a technicolor wave of timeless Beatles-esque pop melodies mixed with the experimental spirit of Animal Collective, Mediterranean Balearic beats, and childlike curiosity.
While the eight majestic tracks on WONDERLAND abound with playful exuberance, they’re also marked with Berglund’s long-lasting and profound sense of melancholy. Kicking off album opener “WHOREHOUSE” is a surprising sample from the 2010 documentary Feathered Cocaine. The buoyant song then blasts into a blend of primal, electronic percussion, jovial vocal samples, and phantasmagorical pop. As light and bouncing as it appears, the song deals in heavier existential crises, feelings of disorientation, and loss. “HARAKIRI” keeps the youthful pace with dreamlike loops and textures rivaling the best songs from Sincerely Yours labelmates Air France. Following that are the almost drill-influenced synths of “MIRAGE”, with its wistfully heartbreaking line, “When you see love, I see a mirage,” the track ending an incredibly strong three-song opening sequence.
However, the second half of the record mainly consists of largely instrumental songs like “jUjU” and “ULTRAKOAS” that work as interludes. While pleasant, these songs slow the record’s pace, making WONDERLAND an incredibly front-loaded album, regrettably petering out after its jubilant first half. Before these glitchy, spacious instrumentals being to lag, the closer, “OMG”, brings back the frolicsome pop splendor for a spectacular, spacey finish. With the record clocking in at a brief 33 minutes, another single like “MIRAGE” or “WONDERLAND” could have added extra depth to the slightly too brief collection.
There’s an abundance of ideas packed into these pop songs, and Berglund’s ear for melodies and harmonies, as well as piecemeal-sampled grunts, yelps, and hollers make for an exotically infectious whole. Though Berglund’s debut, White Magic, was more cohesive, lacking the ponderous, texture-heavy interludes, WONDERLAND has the colorful hooks, structure, and songcraft that make it more memorable.
Essential Tracks: “WHOREHOUSE”, “HARAKIRI”, and “OMG”