A good friend of mine used to make the argument that if you truly listened to ABBA, you would hear a rock band, and to illustrate his point, he would pull out his Gibson Gold Top Les Paul and blaze off some fuzzed out ABBA riffs. I'm reminded of this listening to the new Shout Out Louds album Optica. But aside from both groups being musical Scandinavians with a gift for melody, there is not much else in common between ABBA and Shout Out Louds. Whereas, per my friend's demonstration, ABBA seemed to take their musical undertones from the hard rock of the late Sixties and early Seventies, on Optica Shout Out Louds seem to find their underpinnings in the post new wave era of British music, in the mold of New Order or Echo and The Bunnymen or Lloyd Cole and the Commotions, and in the early Eighties pop crossover of bands like Berlin or Tears For Fears or Men At Work (tho the Men At Work reference is mainly down to the flute in "Walking In Your Footsteps" on Optica).
But Shout Out Louds do more than just nestle into influences on Optica: they are able to blend these influences and warp them to come up with their own sound, which is for the most part upbeat and more like sugar than Splenda. And even tho there is a heavy keyboard and synth element to the music, it still has a strong guitar heart which serves as the core, especially on the opening track "Sugar" or the infectious "Where You Come In" or the fuzz-edged "Hermila". Optica moves as such, with upbeats even on the more minor keyed songs, in some ways bringing to mind the type of music one might hear at an outdoor bar on a Greek Island in late July at the end of the night, or at the least on the soundtrack of a film with such a setting. Optica is reflective but vibrant at the same time, where Shout Out Louds employ an essential energy of melody that while not nostalgic for early to mid-Eighties post new wave music, incorporates the aesthetic of it to create an album worth the hearing.
Optica by Shout Out Louds is out now from Merge Records.
A digital download was provided for review.