Published April 30, 2013
If there’s a band that best embodies the “party” spirit of Iceland’s music scene over the last several years, then Retro Stefson must surely be close contenders. This interest has seen the band being tipped by many to achieve big things beyond these shores. With m-indie backing from Berlin’s Vertigo Records, their third self-titled album now sees them make that first big push into international crossover territory.
The first thing you notice when you play ‘Retro Stefson’ is that a lot of time and effort has gone into the production. Many people won’t care to admit it, but Retro Stefson’s first two albums just didn’t sound that good, coming across as dry and flat and failing to capture the band’s vaunted live energy. But now the music feels brighter and tighter, and everything rushes along with a busy energy.
This leads to the second thing you notice about ‘Retro Stefson.’ That is, the band has traded in their old loose-limbed groove for an electronic sound more aligned with disco and house music, due in no small part, to the influence of album co-producer Hermigervill. While some of the old Retro Stefson is still there in tracks like “Miss Nobody,” which rails with some heavy rock riffing, and “(O) Kami” (the best song in the album), which combines smooth melodies with reggae-infused rock rhythms, there are now tracks like “Julia,” which comes complete with choppy house-y synth lines and “Time,” which goes for a plastick ‘80s nu-pop style.
This isn’t an album that boasts grinding grooves for getting down and dirty. The rough edges have been sanded off, leaving a smooth, shiny album that contains barely an inch of attitude or frisson. But this is an album of pure unabashed groove pop that finally realises the energy and potential that they’ve been promising for a long while now.