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A New Chance

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Album Review

Awash in balmy, neon grooves and exultant, kaleidoscopic scraps of melody, the Tough Alliance's U.S. album debut and second proper pop full-length is neither a dramatic change of direction nor an astounding leap forward from the already quite excellent The New School — but it is a revelation nevertheless. As effortless, and effortlessly enjoyable, as it is perplexing to define, its remarkably fresh-feeling fusion of dance music and classic pop has all the omnivorous eclecticism, bright-eyed playfulness, and epic emotional earnestness of Saint Etienne's Foxbase Alpha and Primal Scream's Screamadelica (it could be coincidental, but TTA covered a C-86-era Primal Scream tune on an early EP.) It's also more than a little reminiscent of those landmark albums in sound and style, grounding its blend of (among other things) dub, '60s pop, reggae, new age, and synth pop in a foundation of early-'90s club beats and hip-house. Those dusty grooves, along with the preponderance of '80s-style synthesizers (though by this point they ought to be as strongly associated with the '00s as the '80s) and an outmoded production, give A New Chance a curiously faded, antiquated quality, one that doesn't feel tired so much as refreshingly anachronistic, though it might be more accurate to say it feels removed from time entirely. Either way it's gloriously out of step with the majority of dance music and pop, mainstream or underground, in the late '00s, unless you think of it as the unlikely amalgamation of hitherto divergent recent trends in Swedish music, incorporating the twee romanticism of Jens Lekman and the Honeydrips, the so-called balearic dubtronica of Studio and Air France, and the melodic synth pop of the Embassy and Cat5 (to name exclusively TTA labelmates and fellow Gothenburg residents.) But the Tough Alliance are more than the sum of their influences — "take no heroes, only inspiration," they once memorably sang — and A New Chance is far more than the triangulation of its reference points. The bouncy, summery shuffle "First Class Riot" was a well-chosen single, but truly every one of the eight songs is a highlight — the driving, Miracles-sampling house of "Neo Violence"; the lush, abstractly funky, vocal fragmented "Miami," and even the mellower "1981," whose backing track could almost pass for Enya, and which recalls the duo's one-off ambient LP Escaping Your Ambitions. It adds up to a constantly shifting, consistently exhilarating thrill ride that's over far too soon (it's a shame they didn't see fit to include any of the tracks from 2006's equally wonderful New Waves EP); an album that, ultimately, stands alongside Screamadelica as a bold, unique, and immensely satisfying experiment, envisioning pop's potential future by reshuffling its past. ~ K. Ross Hoffman, Rovi


Formed: Gothenburg, Sweden

Genre: Pop

Years Active: '00s

Consisting of childhood friends Henning Fürst and Eric Berglund, Göthenburg duo the Tough Alliance -- often referred to simply as TTA -- honed their unique blend of pop, electronica, dub, and Caribbean influences through a series of EP and album releases on the locally based Service label (also home to Jens Lekman and Studio), before forming their own label, Sincerely Yours, in 2006, which helped to establish them as a central force within the Swedish indie music scene. First formed in 2003, they...
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A New Chance, The Tough Alliance
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