The Envelopes

Demon

(Brille; 2005)

By Dom Sinacola | 6 November 2007

“Demon” is actually meant as the Swedish word for “demo.” This makes sense because singer/guitarist Henrik Orrling and guitarist Fredrik Berglund Dehlin live in Stockholm, and probably speak Swedish. “Demo” also rings true when considering the time the band has spent together creating Demon; drummer Filip Ekander hails from Gothenburg (Scandanavia, not Nebraska), bassist Martin Kaarlson from Malmo, and second guitarist and second vocalist Audrey Pic lives in Paris, so, the album is something of an international affair built on convenient meetings and individual gumption. That said, Demon carries a tinge of incompletion, front-loaded with excitement and back-loaded with melody, as if the Envelopes seemed unsure of how to present themselves, making them unsure of how to really draw the listener into the tri-fold.

It’s kind of a shame, because I really want to believe in the Envelopes. Lots of talent, a quirky way of putting songs together, eclectic imagination. Do you think they’ll tighten things up with another release if I threaten them? Yeah?

Whatever they lack in a confident identity, they make up for in enthusiasm. Enthusiasm this band has in guitarfuls. “It Is The Law,” mitts down the most engaging track on the album, a flurry of which the rest of the cuts are unable to successfully develop, coyly opens with a labyrinthine acoustic figure before squinting into full, double-barreled synth storms. Pic’s voice sounds foreign and twitched on a turntable, sometimes joined by Orrling, otherwise sluiced around stunted snares and fuzzy bass. This track, the lead single, is fantastic in how familiarly the band taps into new wave, math rock, and power pop, staying uncommonly surprising while adhesive and accessible. Soon after, “Sister In Love” gallops hardest during a klaxon sing-along, “I Don’t Even Know,” floods the fey with scratchy Western paisley, and “Massmouvement” apes transcendence with a hiccupping slide guitar and a sappy gorgeous choral melody. These moments act like laundry clips, hanging up the rest of the flapping bedsheet of Demon.

What I mean is that finding brilliance on this album is a matter of tip-toeing through a lot of grubby marshland, bearing pleasantly with zip zap morasses before really getting off on some killer junk. What I mean is it goes (the track list verbatim): sss…SQUALL, THud, …lull…, WEEEEE!, jacuzzi. Keep in mind that the “lull” part is defined by “Isabel and Leonard,” a thankless, hollow trip, irritating in every aspect, from the way Henrik pronounces “Lee-oh-nard” to the lyrics to the surf choir to the soft drum rolls to the triumphant bridge, and back again.

Yet, like many quiet pop ditties that emerged this year to seem initially bland or heavy-handed but revealed themselves as not so quiet and endlessly interesting (Field Music, Clap Your Hands, Joggers), Demon rewards an exhausted listener with delicate epiphanies. What was a lull sounds more and more seductive; what was goofy begins to seem electrified. The repetition and atonal cyclones drummed from throat and string alike never really cease to twist at the root of your eyeballs, but it’s an old sensation that feels new, so you can take that. Right? And you really get a kick out of the New Pornographers and Of Montreal, so this all does make sense, right?

Worth mentioning is the enigma of a B-52’s B-side, “I Don’t Like It.” The bass drum alone—while held up by dry production—stomps out the creeping or dainty songs around it, devolving into acid nightmares and some truly tasty chaos. Then, the lyrics are cocky and ambiguous like “Hot Pants Explosion” was, Henrik and Audrey harmonizing, “There’s some things in this world that I haven’t heard(sic),” and then chanting, “I don’t like it!” Whether they don’t like the fact that there are some things in this world that they haven’t head, or don’t like whatever proverbial “it” that’s out there that they haven’t heard, which doesn’t make sense anyway…ya got me. Really, as dopey as the song can get, it demonstrates how sweetly the Envelopes can incorporate everything from twang, to twee, to dance pop in their humble keys and guitar set.

Sometimes, when “Your Fight Is Over” --> “I Don’t Even Know” drags or Audrey’s voice chafes in “Audrey In The Country,” Demon sounds as stale as every stigma “demo” can carry. Then again, Demon sounds like a group of talented craftsman just getting warmed up. Heads up, Envelopes, you’ve pricked my ear drums and plucked at my vulnerable emotions; I’m expecting a lot come sophomore album. Don’t let me down. Or else.