Scandinavian ensemble serve up posthumous platter to celebrate their melodic perseverance.
If this album’s title may seem to be a bit incongruous – although such drinks do exist – that’s because the artists behind it, Klas Qvist and Gudmundur Bragason, loved to mess with their listener’s mind. Only, unfortunately, the joke was on them as, struggling without a record deal, the duo didn’t manage to release, digitally, their 1991 debut “119 Agony Street” before 2020, and 1993’s "Songs For William" before 2022. Undeterred, the two Swedes set to work on a third platter back in 2018 with a prospect of issuing “Italian Whisky” to the shelves as soon as possible, but Qvist suddenly died of sepsis in 2021, soon after the small ensemble started to properly tighten a new bunch of songs, so Bragason was obliged to finish it with a little help of the band’s friends. The results are staggering to say the least.
Delving into the urban-themed album is akin to looking into a psychedelic kaleidoscope and feeling dazzled, inebriated even – not for nothing the acoustically driven story of the titular piece passes its folk-informed histrionics, to the barroom piano and cellar choir of “After Approximately Seven Glasses Of Italian Whisky” situated a few numbers down the line and sung from a tremulous Apennine perspective – when a string of charming characters proceed to flow in front of the record’s aural lenses. These processions begin once the cinematic uplift of “Next Door Overture” turns into baroque pop of “The Girl Next Door” and peak with the hilariously vaudevillian, acid-spiked “Save 20 Minutes” to stop after the similarly anthemic fantasy of “Utopia” puts an end to the ’60s-indebted, misty-eyed, wedding-bell-like innocence of “All Those Golden Years Ago” or chamber jive of “You Are Gwendolyn” which Gudmundur and Klas voices convey so convincingly. They especially excel on the name-dropping “Next Door To A Looney” that edges towards wondrous, arresting absurd, and on the cosmic “Time To Go Home” that’s spiced with a ska groove and rock ‘n’ roll licks – all instruments, apart from drums, courtesy of the now-late half of the duo whose orchestral imprint is all over the mandolin-sprinkled “Mom’s Street” where sadness and sweetness run shoulders.
However, “Global City (Nothing Is Everything)” reaches for the bright skies – and that’s the place AGONY STREET should belong to.