Wednesday, 23 September 2020

Retro Reviews: Kleerup - Kleerup

Time for another look back at tunes gone by, this time with what I think is the newest album to yet feature on retro reviews, but I think at ~11 years old it's an acceptable entry. This time we're looking at Andreas Kleerup's debut; the eponymous Kleerup. It's an album that I have mixed feelings about, and it's yet another case of the album being released and then re-pressed within a year with a different cover and with an almost completely altered tracklist that really ticks me off - you essentially have to buy the album twice to get the whole experience. The Spotify version I'm covering today has the tracklist of the repress but the album art of the original just to muddy the waters further. But I digress, let's have a look.



The album opens with Hero, which now with the added hindsight of age wouldn't sound completely out of place in the Synth/Retro wave world, artists like Arcade High were making this kind of stuff circa 2012 for example. As an opening track it's pretty solid, it lays the groundwork for what's to come and nicely demos the sounds that permeate this album. It's maybe a little grandiose with the fadeout to choir on the end but overall it's fine.



The album's at it's strongest however when Kleerup has a guest vocalist to bounce off of, normally I am a bit suspicious when an album has a whole ton of Featuring credits (admittedly irrationally so now I think about it), but the album is only enhanced by the features on it. By far and away the biggest example is the very second track, the beautifully bleak Until We Bleed with Lykke Li. If there's a track from this album you've heard before it'll be this one; I do really like it and it's a great piece of production from Kleerup, though it's a bit of a 180 in terms of sound from the intro track. It's absolutely targeted to that slightly emo blogger demographic of the time, and Lykke Li does an amazing performance that completes that atmosphere. I can see the whole thing it coming off as a bit trite here in 2020 but I still have a fondness for it, though I do think the strings and lyrics make the whole thing a little bit overwrought.



Speaking of muddying waters, this track is the biggest culprit. You'll find it credited to Robyn, Robyn With Kleerup, Kleerup Featuring Robyn and just about every variation you can think of, which is warranted because Robyn also released this herself but I'm digressing again. If I had to pick one track that would summarises the album for me, it would be With Every Heartbeat. Every part of it is what I really like about this album: slick production from Kleerup with the way the elements build throughout, those lush synths and sparkling arpeggios, all tied together with Robyn's impressive as always vocal. Robyn was an excellent choice to feature (as were all the guest vocalists sprinkled throughout this album), her guest appearances around this time were all incredibly solid. Once again I feel like the strings are a bit much, they're not too bad when they're hanging in the background of the mix but I don't really get on with them when they come to the forefront during the breaks.

You can criticise some of this album as being total radio-bait, which I totally understand and think would probably apply to this track more than most as it was the breakout hit... But man, 2009 was a really good year for electronic pop stuff: La Roux, Röyksopp's Junior, Calvin Harris before he went full generic, it was good times.



I'm skipping over a fair few tracks here, which it's paining me to do a bit but I don't want this to turn into a track-by-track. We're getting into tracks now that were only included on the re-release one year later, and they're a lot more synthwavy than I remember. Iris in particular has that Kavinsky-esque slow jam feel to it. While it's only short it's been a highlight of my revisit to this album(s), strange that it's only included on the re-issue but then again it's also strange that some tracks were dropped entirely from the original pressing. While I've been praising the choice in guest vocalists throughout, I think Iris doesn't suffer from the lack of one, it's is a solid example of Kleerup's finely polished production style.



That trend continues on the next track and yet another highlight from my re-visit; 3AM. And again these parts of the LP are much more retro sounding that I remembered, those handclaps and synth solos like at 2:42 wouldn't be out of place when the whole outrun thing gained traction a couple years later. 3AM was also released as a single which I think was the right choice, much like some of the bits of Plastic Beach I feel tunes like this should have been bigger hits than they were but as mentioned above there were already so many hits that year it probably just got lost in the undertow. Hell, based on the bits and pieces I hear from the radio now a tune like this would still do well, and would probably be the only song on there to contain the world 'Newfoundland' (though rhyming it with 'and' was a bit forced!)



Misery continues the trend of slightly melancholic lyrics set to an upbeat backing that's present a lot on this album, and mixes things up with some male vocals this time to boot. I can't say that this one is a new rediscovery from this revisit either as it's had a place on multiple playlists of mine, so its not gotten as much of a dusting off as some of the others here. It's a pretty listen, home to all those twinkling sounds that we've had so much of so far, the delivery of the lyrics is this catchy yet cathartic release, and there's something lovely and paradoxical about an upbeat tune with this kind of vocal backing. I do wish the ending had a bit more impact behind it, the way it just kind of fades out has always bothered me a bit, I don't think it would be as bad if it were a to linger a smidge longer before the fade.



My final selection is more of the same, with a slightly funkier twist. It seems like a bit of a cop out to summarise an entire song in one sentence but it's pretty much true, by this point Kleerup has the formula down pat, and the tracks don't stray too far from it, which if you like them like I do isn't necessarily a bad thing at all. His production work really shines, and with he variety of guest vocalists there's enough variety in there that it at least stays a bit fresh. Also do remember that I am giving a slightly biased view of this album by choosing my faves which happen to lean on this sound, but even so tracks like Until We Bleed stand out as very different in contrast to the rest of my selections. Also note that this isn't the final track of the album, just my final choice. But saying that I reckon it wouldn't be too thematically out of place if it were



And so ends my trip down memory lane once again, this album is much more... 'generic' is the wrong word but certainly in that same vein. Don't get me wrong it's a quality album, I don't want it to seem as if that's a negative, I'm just having a hard time thinking of a synonym that would fit. I think essentially a bunch of the tracks got blended together in my head, which speaks to the consistency of Kleerup's production for better or worse. In looking it up I did find that Kleerup didn't do another proper follow up until this year, I haven't checked it out but I imagine the sound might have changed in the good decade and a year since this album. He has semi-regularly released EPs in between too, it's nice to see at least, Kleerup could have just carried on producing for other artists in the background.

So enjoy another instalment of these retro reviews, I think I'll have to consider more ~10 year old LPs of yore and see what and how if at all my opinions have changed in the meantime. There's not really a fully drawn up plan for these though, I write them as and when I sees them, I recently put this album back into rotation for example. Anyway, I hope you find something you like here, and as always: Stay safe and enjoy the music.

-CVF

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