I don’t know how Peter Bjorn And John do it, but their latest album Darker Days manages to sound like winter while allowing a few slivers of sunlight to break through. And it’s those beams that keep the music from being desolate or depressing. Even when the lyrics are morose, there’s an odd sense of hope that still manages to bubble up.
The Swedish trio has a wide ranging catalog, and have shown a fearlessness when it comes to confounding expectations. Their breakthrough 2006 hit “Young Folks”—you know, the one with the whistling—is miles away from the dark menace of “Inland Empire” off 2008’s Seaside Rock. And the tropical material on 2001’s Gimme Some stands in contrast to the playful pop edge of 2016’s Breakin’ Point.
As mentioned in the opening, this year’s Darker Days mixes menace and melody to create a, um, darker musical stew. In a statement from the band they said that after a long gestation period for their last album, “the idea this time was to get less bogged down in the details.” That may be why the themes throughout the album feel more immediately reflective of the world today and interpersonal relationships viewed through a similar lens. Darker Days also continues their streak of continuing to release albums that are simply ridiculously good.
Another benefit of a long and varied catalog is that the band’s live shows are always a thrill. The band’s shows are consistently rewarding, and I never miss them when they come through town. Despite some of their music’s more melancholic themes, the band always appears to be having a blast onstage, and the members are not above jumping into the crowd without missing a beat to play a guitar solo or lead a sing-along.
If that sounds like something you’re down with, Peter Bjorn and John is appearing at Lincoln Hall tonight, December 5, and tickets are still available. If you can’t make it, I highly suggest checking out Darker Days anyway, since it’s sure to make it onto my year-end list of the best albums in 2018.