The clichés about Scandinavian cleanliness and order apply to much of the music emanating from northern Europe, and Writer's Block, Peter Bjorn and John's third album, won't dispel those perceptions. Further, like many young Nordic musicians, these Swedes romanticize several decades of Anglo-American rock and pop. The result is music that's both too reverent and charmingly askew, as overly familiar traits get lost in translation. No matter your stance on said Scando tics, there's no denying that Writer's Block is much better than 2005's Falling Out, which was psych pop of utter conventionality and politesse. Plus, it lacked anything as sweetly contagious as the uplifting "Young Folks." A fetching duet between languid ex-Concretes singer Victoria Bergsman and Peter, the song blithely cruises on pell-mell bongos, a Partridge Family bass line (allegedly), a Monkees breakbeat and some cheerful whistling. It achieves the rare feat of making one corner of your mouth curve upward and the other downward. Other highlights include "Let's Call It Off," a pastiche of reverb-y '80s indie rock influenced by peppy '60s pop that recalls Detroit's own Outrageous Cherry, and the pulse-quickening, blue-toned pop of "Chills." With their earnest melodic charms and winningly precise rhythms, PB&J should, uh, clean up among the indie-pop cognoscenti.
Dave Segal writes about music for Metro Times. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.