One of the false ideas I had when I was younger was that music had to be inaccessible and challenging to be edgy or attention-getting. But I’ve learned that sometimes, it’s not about doing something different, but doing something well. Such is the case with Swedish/Italian band I Used To Be A Sparrow. A duo comprised of Dick Pettersson and Andrea Caccese, I Used To Be A Sparrow (great name) are good ol’ fashioned indie rock. Or, at least as good ol’ fashioned as you can be in a subgenre that’s around ten years old.
On Luke, the band takes a mostly post-punk approach. The production is crisp, if a little underproduced, giving the instruments plenty of open room to breathe. And boy, do they open up; almost every song on Luke has some reverb tinged-guitar ringing out while the vocals belt without abandon. Keeping the skyward reaching vocals and guitars grounded is some propulsive but always skillful drum work. The sound is anything but basic though: both Pettersson and Caccesse layer vocals, guitars are often multitracked, and every now and then, extra effect makes its way into the mix. Despite this, Luke never sounds cluttered.
If there’s one thing you can say about I Used To Be A Sparrow, damn if they aren’t consistent. The above paragraph describes the majority of Luke‘s sonic template, for better and worse. On one hand, the quality never really suffers, and it’s hard to pick out tracks that are filler. On the other hand, it takes some songs awhile to come out of the woodwork. Most begin with a lone guitar intro, maybe some vocals, and fill themselves out in the first minute. It’s not a bad sound, but there’s a lot of potential and room for exploration.
But that’s not to say that Luke doesn’t set the ground-plan for IUTBAS’s sound well. Lead single “Life is good” summarizes the band’s constantly swelling, liberating sound in the most selling way. Again, the quality is too consistent for any real strikeouts, but I feel like the mid-album stretch of “Hawaii”, “Lovers on the Moon”, and “Moby Dick” is the most enjoyable part of the record. “Hawaii” sounds almost meditatively calm with tight-packed but nimble guitar work and a strong melody. “Lovers on the Moon” has the first acoustic guitars on the album, and shifts the focus onto gorgeous atmosphere; perfect night music. “Moby Dick” simply fires on all cylinders across IUTBAS’s default sound. Other highlights include “Give It Up”, which has a more concentrated sound than most else here, and closer “Alaska”, which lets Luke end with a burst of energy.
Even if it isn’t always happy, Luke feels very much like a hopeful record. Even if they sound dejected, there’s always something in these songs that looks up, especially on “Life is good”. I Used To Be A Sparrow calls Luke “honest songs and powerful melodies”, and it’s a dead-on assessment: they sing with reckless abandon, and it’s hard not to join in.
Overall, Luke is a promising debut that shows a band with plenty of potential, while being enjoyable in its own right. Even if it’s a little samey, the songs develop and go somewhere, and never overstay their welcome (11 songs in 35 minutes). And plus, there’s just not a singular weak spot on the thing. The group only formed in December, so things can only go up from here.
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To buy a physical or digital copy of Luke, or get single “Life is good” and b-side “Mikkael” for free, hustle on over to the group’s bandcamp page. You won’t be disappointed.