We Are Serenades - Criminal Heaven
Record Label: Cherrytree Records/Interscope
Release Date: April 17, 2012
So what happens when you put two of Sweden's highest regarded songwriters in the same room? Exactly what you'd expect; a wonderful collaboration and ten solid tracks. We Are Serenades (formerly Serenades) are the duo of Adam Olenius, of Shout Out Louds, and Markus Krunegard of the band Laakso. For four years, the duo had written songs together when not touring with their own bands, as well as participating in writing sessions over the phone. In the winter of 2010, Olenius and Krunegard took some time off from their own projects to head into the studio and record their debut album, "Criminal Heaven."
The record opens with "All The Words," which immediately showcases Olenius and Krunegard's ability to harmonize, which is something that is featured throughout the entire album. Though the vocals are solid and the music progressively builds (adding a wonderful 8-bit synth around the two minute mark), I feel that this track kicks the album off to a slow start. Perhaps it would've worked better as an introduction, rather than a full length, three minute long song. The second number, "Birds," offers something more upbeat, and also features a call and response between vocals and strings in the chorus. "Birds" is promising, but it isn't until the third track, "Come Home," that the album picks up. "Come Home" was the band's first international single, and discusses spending the holidays alone. The addition of the "Christmasy-bells" around the chorus lyrics, "I don't wanna hear another Christmas song about love when I'm on my own," is perfect. From here on, the album takes off, offering a solid array of indie-pop goodness, as well as a few acoustic tracks.
The first of the two acoustic numbers on the record, "Daydreaming," is accompanied by a soothing, atmospheric synth pad. The lead synth part in the first chorus also adds a perfect touch, blending nicely with the finger picked acoustic guitar and counter-melody vocals. The duo's signature sound on this record is composed mainly of their subtle, yet powerful usage of reverb, which resonates beautifully on this track. "Daydreaming" is followed by "Oceans," which compliments the acoustic feel of the song before it, by keeping the chill mood yet bringing back the drums and synths. The chorus of this track, as well as the next, "Weapons," is slightly reminiscent of Matt and Kim, yet softer and more melodic. Fast forward a bit, and you're at "Criminal Heaven," the second acoustic track on the record, and also the title track. The song is complimented by the choppy/sometimes out of synch vocal octave harmony, which brings out the emotion, especially on lines such as "before you leave, please tell me what's on your mind." "Criminal Heaven" proves that the acoustic songs are some of the strongest tracks on the album.
Before you know it, you're at the end of the record, with the uplifting "Walking Home." The song features the most powerful vocal harmonies on the album, accompanied by an incredible sax solo, as well as handclaps (which are always a plus). The closing track leaves you longing for more, and hopefully a sophomore release isn't too far away.