MORE – Appraisal

In the darkest of nights I’ll find the light…

Sweden is never short of electronic pop acts and MORE represents another facet of the country’s busy and vibrant scene. Describing themselves as a band with “a retro shimmering tone and a current state of mind”, MORE consists of Magnus Dahlberg (vocals) Mattias Jönsson (keyboards, backing vocals) and Lino Avian (keyboards). Dahlberg has also collaborated with the likes of BlakLight in recent times, demonstrating that he’s happy to mix things up on occasion.

MORE’s latest release Appraisal represents the band’s second studio album and features an assortment of thoughtful and reflective compositions that invite the listener to ponder the human condition.

Appraisal offers listeners a journey through a year consisting of a “long struggle between hopelessness, despair and commitment”, as the band describe it. In practice, Appraisal ploughs through an at times exuberant synth-pop style, while also weaving in a darker, more melancholic aspect in the band’s chemistry.

“We wanted a dark and more moody tone” suggests Magnus Dahlberg in the band’s approach to the new album. “Appraisal is a very honest and naked album. Life is not always a walk in the park and within the dark undertones, there are light and hope. The story is equally told both in the instrumentals as well as in the lyrics and the album art ties the theme together.”

Across the album’s eleven tracks, Magnus Dahlberg’s vocals take on a ponderous, weighty quality. At times, that vocal delivery is reminiscent of alternative synth-pop outfit V-Sor,X and there’s certainly moments of similar raw energy at work on MORE’s material (the robust, angular nature of ‘Self-Control’ for instance).

The album’s opening number, ‘Waterfall (time in an uproar)’, is a slow-burning slice of brooding synth-pop peppered with moody piano elements. ‘Provoked by Motions’, which preceded the album as a single release, has a more sweeping, melancholic feel to it. Lyrical musings such as “The smallest chances, made out of pure luck” delve into the minutiae that make up life, while also pondering themes of loss.

There’s a starker, bleaker aspect to ‘Blind (lead the blind)’ with its sobering mantra of “You are weak”. Meanwhile, ‘About Last Night’ has a wistful sadness about it, punctuated by its shimmering synth colours.

One of the album’s highlights, ‘Thread Of Hope’ has a tangible, physical quality to it emphasised by the oddly organic-sounding percussion. It calls to mind Empathy Test at times, treading similar angsty territory with its polished synth delivery. Dahlberg’s vocals here have a strangely euphoric appeal here which manage to stick around in your head.

The album’s title track delivers an exercise in brooding self-reflection. Hard-edged synth tones dominate the song while the lyrical narrative plays around with religious flourishes (“My faith is constantly challenged”). It’s a darker affair than the other tracks on the album with a heavier foundation at work.

Conversely, ‘Shine in the Dark’ takes MORE into a definite darkwave pop direction. Here, engaging rhythms power the song along while synth melodies are peppered across the composition like piquant seasoning.

‘The Ballad Of A Blue Day’, which closes Appraisal out, throws a nod to the themes and inspirations of the album as a whole (“It’s been a slow year, a very slow year”). The track’s plaintive keyboard melodies are contrasted by some squelchy synth elements and it offers a nice closer.

”Does love conquer all, even in dark times?” ask MORE of the listener in ruminating on the album. It’s a question that’s worth dwelling on even after the final notes of Appraisal fade.

Appraisal is out now.