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Inland Traveller

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Album Review

Sweden's Isolation Years come not from the cultural capital of Stockholm, but from the more rural land of Umea. The band's debut, Inland Traveller, is something of a Swedish phenomenon, and was named 2000s album of the year by many of the country's critics. Only in 2003, through the new label Galaxy Gramophone, did the album see U.S. release. The opener, "Talking Introduction," saunters with a Morricone-like musical saw interlude, part in anticipation of the desert psych tinge, and part in homage the logging landscape of their homeland. A sonic tie, too, is made to the sense of longing and yes, isolation, that will develop later on in songs like the alt-country "Hemisphere," or in the long winter lament, "Melting Minds." These songs, while shimmering, don't really reach the spatial anxiety of true psych-country, and come off rather sterile in spite of excellent arrangements. Released in 2000, the album prefigures parts of the Scandinavian garage rock revival, especially with Strokes-like vocal treatments ("I'm Gonna Flip"), while picking up on American Gothic sounds put out by folks like Neutral Milk Hotel. This is apparent on "New Start," a track made rubber with steel guitar and a romping drum part, upbeat bass, and interludes of brass. Singer Jakob Nyström's voice, a warm country warble in the low range but shaky and expressive when pushed, especially follows the tradition of Jeff Mangum. The album was self-recorded in a former Venetian blind factory, and little glitches, coughs, and watery vocals betray this where gorgeous guitar lines ("Cold Morning in Minusinsk") ride right up front, making for a curious mixture of pro and amateur conditions for a band caught between rural weirdness and urban melancholy.

Inland Traveller, Isolation Years
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