Album Review: Richard Öhrn – Sounds in English

Some of the best and most inventive pop has come out of Sweden. Tages, for example, were never well-known in the US, but they made some sterling music. Much more recently, The Greek Theatre have taken the classic pop values of the UK and America, recasting them in their own style. Arvidson & Butterflies have done much the same, while working in the comparatively narrow musical lane of power pop.

Richard Öhrn is part of that movement as well. His style is wide-encompassing, channeling Merseybeat one moment (“Seal Your Move”) and lilting Welsh/British folk the next (“5th Month Announcement”). And ten he rocks out with the chiming and soaring janglepop of “Time’s Not Running Out.” Then it’s romantic and soulful baroque pop (“The Coolest Manners”) followed by a song in the best tradition of Simon and Garfunkel (“Someone to Forgive You”).

Sounds in English is supremely eclectic, with each song existing as a full-formed musical statement. But the whole thing hangs together cohesively. That shouldn’t be surprising, since Öhrn plays and sings pretty much everything you’ll hear on the album. He’s a strong songwriter with a well-tuned sense of how to craft arrangements that showcase those songs in the best possible light. The shimmering tones of “Take This Bottle” draw the listener in; the music works on a surface just-enjoy-it level, and closer listening yields its own rewards.

Öhrn traffics is subtlety on “Every Shade,” a sweet tune reminiscent of early ‘70s Paul McCartney balladry. “I Choose You” builds on some of the Brill Building pop values. The country twinge of “Could Have Loved you More” is a stylistic left-turn, but it’s so well executed that it works. “If I Could Read Your Mind” has the feel of a Harry Nilsson tune, albeit sung through a distorted mic: weird but effective in its own way. And the chamber pop of “Spanish Moon” takes things yet somewhere else. Sounds in English is a kind of musical pop travelogue, and it’s an enjoyable excursion.