Thursday, May 30 2024

Since 2021, the Norwegian-Irish / Swiss indie pop duo Todd & Karen have been steadily dropping singles… very good singles! Now, they’ve packaged these singles into an album titled… wait for it… ‘Singles.’ The album features eight tracks that blend indie rock with pop sensibilities and is worthy of 24 minutes of anyone’s time.

The album kicks off with ‘Mr. Beardsley,’ a piano-driven indie pop track infused with captivating vocal harmonies. As the track progresses, the addition of acoustic guitar and drums injects it with an energy that reminded me of The Beatles’ catchiest tunes. The rock ‘n’ roll piano break in ‘Mr. Beardsley’ is an absolute standout with its simplicity being its strength, as it brings a new energy that works wonders. Clocking in at just 3 minutes, the track is an easy listen that hooks you in right from the start. It sets the perfect tone for the rest of the album.

Barbara, Barbara, Barbara’ kicks off with a nice sounding acoustic guitar accompaniment and Todd’s distinctive lead vocals. Despite noticing a shift in production style from the previous track, it doesn’t detract from the overall experience for me. The song maintains a consistent vibe throughout. As additional elements like piano and female vocals are introduced, it transforms into a touching piano ballad with a chorus that sticks in your head. The subtle addition of strings after the chorus brings depth to the arrangement. It’s inevitable to compare them to The Beatles and British music from the ’60s given the nostalgic charm of the song.

The third track, ‘Cosmo Crowd’ stays true to the vibe established by the first two songs, but this time, electric guitars make their presence felt. I personally appreciated the mix of soft, high-pitched vocals and Todd’s warm whispers that brought depth to the track. It’s impressive how Todd & Karen are able to blend vintage tones with a modern touch, creating a sound that feels both timeless and fresh. The dreamy vocals and sweet melody evoke a sense of nostalgia. It takes me back to bygone eras, even though I wasn’t even born! Somehow images of the ’60s are running through my head… I think it might be the keyboards as they have a lovely John Lennon feel.

L12‘ starts like an unplugged Flogging Molly song but unfolds as a fusion between Irish folk music and modern indie rock. The upbeat tempo offers a refreshing change of pace after the preceding slower tempo numbers and it lifts the mood. As a fan of Irish music and especially Irish punk rock, this song is one of my favorites. Transitioning to ‘Blackpool Lights’ next, Todd & Karen revisit a piano-based vintage sound that goes back to the ’90s era of Blur – reminiscent of songs like ‘Park Life’ and ‘Tracey Jacks.’ The track has a similarly upbeat atmosphere, complete with whimsical sound effects in the background. Todd’s vocal delivery even draws parallels to the distinctive style of Damon Albarn. Personally, ‘Blackpool Lights,’ is another standout addition to the album for me.

In ‘Norwegian Summer,’ Karen leads this acoustic guitar-driven ballad, showcasing the duo’s versatility. Its dreamy structure brings to mind the style of Belle and Sebastian, highlighting their ability to explore diverse musical landscapes. However, I wonder if ‘Norwegian’ is maybe a doff of the cap to those rapscallion Liverpudlian lads again?

Todd & Karen

However, as for the best track on the album… ‘Juicy Gossip From The Mothership’ takes the crown for me. Featuring a catchy hook, electric guitars, and an up-tempo beat layered with great synth sounds, it’s an instant sing-along favorite. Its simplicity makes it easy to pick up and enjoy in no time. We wrote a review when this song was released and we’re still hooked by it.

Bougie Suzie’ brings the album to a close and is a laid-back, mellow tune driven by acoustic guitar and the intertwined vocals of Todd & Karen. To me, this song is a great album closer – it epitomises the duos style and almost brings the album full circle… oh, and listen out for the wonderful Fab Four chord that ends proceedings. Apt, and the perfect homage from this songwriting duo to still possibly the best songwriting duo to have existed.

Although the songs have all been released as singles, the album is more coherent than I would have thought it would be, especially since the track order is also based on the actual release dates. Todd & Karen are a versatile duo and know how to write catchy classic pop songs in the style of The Beatles and more contemporary artists like Bell & Sebastian. Vocally, they are at their best when they sing together. Their voices work well and they showcase nice harmonies throughout. The production isn’t always coherent from one track to the next, but that’s understandable. It’s not been recorded as an album, so you can hear the different styles between the mastering of the songs. You can also hear that it is a DIY production, but it doesn’t affect the song quality and nor should it the reception either. It actually adds to the charm – lo-fi, bedroom pop – all terms beautifully used to provide credence to indie music.

‘Singles’ stands out as an exceptional album, offering a wide range of musical styles and Todd & Karen demonstrate they’re capable of blending all of them. They also show they’re skilled musicians. As a fan of The Beatles, I can only anticipate their future work with excitement, hoping for more catchy and straightforward pop tunes that lift spirits and brighten days. The album certainly made my day a lot sunnier 🙂

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Review

Summary

Todd & Karen bundled their releases into an album called ‘Singles,’ featuring eight tracks that blend indie rock and pop. From the captivating piano-driven opener ‘Mr. Beardsley’ to the nostalgic charm of ‘Blackpool Lights,’ each song offers a unique blend of styles, showcasing Todd & Karen’s versatility as skilled musicians.
79%
All Killer, No Filler

Rating

Song Quality
Vocal Performance
Instrumentation
Lyrics
Production
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About Author

Gee Nelson

Gee Nelson has been a musician, producer and songwriter since the '90’s. Besides music Gee loves reading, writing, watching British sitcoms and playing board games. His biggest influences are Green Day, Nirvana, Offspring and Eels. His favourite genre is 90’s and early 00’s (indie) rock.

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