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Rockin' Our Turntable: Peter, Bjorn And John

By Tankboy in Arts & Entertainment on Apr 1, 2009 5:15PM

2009_03_living_thing.jpg Peter, Bjorn & John's new Living Thing features a trio well known for lush compositional touches mostly stripping their sound down to the basics without losing the melodies they're known for and while inflating the emotional resonance.

Living Thing's ultra-minimal opener "The Feeling" builds itself on repetitious lyrics, beats and percussive commas, increasing the pressure without ever opening a release valve. It's followed by "It Don't Move Me" - a melodic ancestor to the group's whistle-happy anthem of the summer of '06 "Young Folks" re-imagined as amid-'80s electro-breakdancing anthem. And its easy to see how the playful mixture of indie-pop and hip-hop, especially when mixed with the earworms buried between the assorted clanking time-keeping hardware of "Nothing To Worry About" and "Lay It Down" will infect earbuds from here to Helsinki. Elsewhere, worldbeat grooves wend in and out of robotic stutters -- most winkingly on the Paul Simon-esque title track -- before re-seeking refuge underneath the stark song structures and it becomes apparent that Peter, Bjorn & John have created a minimalist masterpiece of influences and noise.

So where does the emotional component come in? The skeletal song structures create an urgency in both vocal timbre and timing. The bare delivery on most of the songs underscores a certain vulnerability, and when effects are employed they work to great effect. For instance the distorted vocal effect running hot on the chorus of "Nothing To Worry About" offers ironic commentary on the actual lyrics underneath, creating a satisfying dichotomy. The album's overarching duality has to do with the minimal structures occupying cavernous headspace, and its this filled-to-bursting feeling that allows us to unpack the songs to discover previously hidden slivers of laayer and meaning with each progressive listen.

Peter, Bjorn And John play April 23 at Metro, 3730 N Clark, 9 p.m., $20, 18+