Sweden’s Mårten Lärka describes himself as a “semi-acoustic indie troubadour.” His latest release Allez Allez uses entirely French lyrics, and is a fun, well-crafted garage/pop-punk set.
The nine-track album kicks off with “Dors Bien” which is a….lullaby? Huh? Lärka sings against his strummed acoustic guitar with a tinkling music box sprinkled throughout. The lyrics were simple enough for even this poor French student to follow. It’s a beautiful song, and an unusual way to start an album.
Once we hear more of Allez Allez, the reason for starting with a lullaby comes into focus. The songs recount a day with his lover, starting at the end of the day and working backwards. In this context, the lullaby’s lyrics (“don’t regret anything … you did your best”) make a lot more sense. Would you sing this to your baby? Probably not, but you might after you caught your girlfriend dancing with someone else.
Up next is “Parfum de Nuit” which pairs a softly-mixed Motown drum feel with saxophones lines. The production here is worth noting--there are lots of subtle parts throughout that reveal themselves through repeated listenings. Lärka shows great restraint, taste and skill, which you’ll want to keep in mind for the later tracks.
As the album unspools, it takes on a rawer, almost garage-rock feel. For instance, “J’etais Ou” offers an old-school recording feel, almost as if they put an overhead mic in a room and had the band bash out a few takes. But this is carefully-constructed lo-fi with dreamy backing vocals, a clap-along section and some nice keyboards underneath. Lärka is fully in control of his art here; he’s making this sound exactly the way he wants it as he asks his wayward lover, “where was I?” The track is a ton of fun, and one of my favorites on Allez, Allez.
The raw, garage-rock feel continues on “La Vie Est Une Chanson.” It's a ‘60s-feel blues progression with fuzzy guitar and vintage keyboard sounds, but it feels more exotic because of the French lyrics. The music carries the jungle feel of “Etre Tarzan” in any language; don’t miss the terrific flute parts! This works nicely into the drum-and-bass spoken-word groove of “Monsieur Marcel.”
“Allez Au Diable” could be a lost Aftermath-era Rolling Stones track. It’s crank-it-up, fun guitar rock. Again, Lärka shows restraint here, giving the song just what it needs to deliver its raw message (“go to hell!”). This, plus “J’etais Ou,” would have made a dynamite double-A-Side single in an earlier era.
We close, before the drama of the day unfolds with “Ma Bien Aimee,” which is a pop song crossed with some hymn-like passages. Moa Holmsten’s vocals here are beautiful, and blend well with Lärka’s.
Allez, Allez is a well-crafted set of songs, and the emotion is clear no matter your native tongue. I didn’t want the album to end, so I’m playing it again right now.
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