Who Killed Harry Houdini?
By Renee Addington
The mere fact that I’m from Barcelona exists is somewhat miraculous. Nearly 30 people coming together, somehow managing to put aside artistic differences and create something fun and beautiful is incredible. If you have yet to appreciate the phenomenon of these Swedish minstrels, you should start downloading now.
Barcelona originated in Jönköping, Sweden in 2005 at the behest of lead vocalist and songwriter Emanuel Lundgren. They released an EP in 2006 called, Don’t Give Up on Your Dreams, Buddy! Their straightforward indie pop chords and heartfelt lyrics were a critical and commercial success. With their second disc, Who Killed Harry Houdini? the group achieves a different sound that is unlikely to be quickly lauded.
It would be easy to characterize Who Killed Harry Houdini? as a sophomore slump. It doesn’t make you long for summer days and green grass and first love the way Let Me Introduce My Friends did. But it is infused with such a sweet, melancholy nostalgia that it’s impossible not to fall in love with.
As on the debut disc, Lundgren’s charming vocals are the heart and soul of Houdini. The instruments range from the standard guitar, drums, keyboard set to trumpet, clarinet, sax, banjo, mandolin, accordion and most of the instruments ever invented.
Disappointingly, the album opens with what is perhaps its weakest track–the pleasant but unimaginative “Andy.” The album’s single, “Paper Planes,” is by far the most similar to the catchy tunes from Friends. It’s the cute, upbeat story of enjoying the sights and sounds of an apartment building.
Back to back are “Headphones,” a tribute to the transformative power of music, and “Music Killed Me,” a thinly veiled reference to the seductive power of a relationship. French songstress SoKo accompanies Lundgren with her own melodic vocals on “Gunhild,” a sweetly gloomy tune.
“Mingus” is the older brother to Barcelona classics like “Chicken Pox.” It deals with the fear of growing up. It’s a glimpse into the heart of a band that sooner or later will have to decide whether it wants to grow up and potentially abandon a piece of itself or stay the same sweet but boring child forever. “Mingus” sets the tone for the rest of the album, delving into more serious topics and bringing in a rougher, folksier sound.
Any skepticism about the growing pains of Who Killed Harry Houdini? is eliminated with the final track. The seven-minute “Rufus” leaves listeners with a final thought on the band’s future. Its nonsense lyrics play at the notion of finding someone to take you where you’re supposed to be. The song ends with the note, “In my heart, in my heart/still a kid,” suggesting that while the band may grow up musically, their inner child is always willing to come out and play.