Winners & Fools
John Dahlbäck has never hid his desire to aim for the pop heights in his own way -- and compared to some in Europe who aim similarly, there's no question he's far more talented than those who seem only to want to be laughed at during the Eurovision Song Contest. But while Winners & Fools, Dahlbäck's third full-length, might be one of those records that's too pop for the purists and too straight-up dance for radio and TV, it's also one of those records that in falling in the middle succeeds very well all around. So while "Intro" is just that, a start for the album that feels like a moody chill piece with lead piano that is slightly screwed with toward the end to keep it from being a fully easy listen, the bold "Gold and Fear" is an even better album-starter, a piece of instrumental bombast that puts together a slew of perfectly obvious stuff in just the right way, teasing the listener with an extended opener, bringing in the beats in full after initial keyboard fanfares, both a Euro-disco via Moroder tribute and something that sounds like it could only have been recorded with distance from the initial heyday of electronic body music. Most of the album is one perfect confection after another that keeps its balance carefully but successfully between the straight-up and the just off-center; if the vocoder dream of "I Had a Feeling" is the latest in the endless series of Daft Punk clonings, it's a stellar one, while "Spitzer" -- nothing to do with a certain disgraced New York governor, but the timing's pretty apt -- is a skipping piece of light beats but ugly keyboard riffs, a sharp combination. Two of the most straight-up pop numbers come courtesy of guest vocalist Elodie; if she doesn't have the precise, diamond-glass-cut tone of someone like Rihanna, say, she's got the "just winsome enough for the indie pop escapees" feeling down to a T on "Sidewalk." However, Dahlbäck's own sweet turn on "World of Love" is not far behind in welcoming warmth. ~ Ned Raggett, Rovi
Track samples provided courtesy of iTunes
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