Thursday, March 19, 2009

Kristoffer Ragnstam's "Wrong Side of the Room"

Lots of reviews for Swedish song-writer Kristoffer Ragnstam seem to feel he can be compared to Beck. It’s true that he seems to have some of the eclectic tastes which has made Beck such a staple on the American music scene, but perhaps it’s unfair to look so far afield for influences.

There have been other important bands which suggest Sweden has a thriving music scene on its own terms. The Wannadies, for one, had some great (though more angry) guitar-pop in the 90s which Ragnstam at times seems to echo. Then there was American’s brief affair with The Hives. Though past their best now, they have done some great punk-pop music over the years. The question is then, will Kristoffer Ragnstam take up the mantel for the Swedish music scene?

It certainly looks like it. Ragnstam’s latest record, “Wrong Side of the Room,” is catchy and energizing in turns. Mixed by renowned Blur, Radiohead and Supergrass engineer, Chris Brown, it manages to be both polished and edgy.

His lyrics fit this model too. The song “2008,” for example, is a great mix of the humorous and poignant. The track begins with the lines “Nothing bores me more than an overrated poet/ with an acoustic guitar, and way too much to say.” As you begin to smile, he turns to sing “Nothing makes me feel more lonely/ than when I’m all alone, with you honey,” and you are suddenly in a quite different place.

Ragnstam has already had some success, touring in support of Debby Harry in 2007. With this new record, it looks like that was just the beginning, and Ragnstam will now make another assault on American shores, we hope even bigger, and more sustained, than his predecessors.

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