Hailing from a place menaced by cold and darkness, Scandinavian bands have found an antidote in the ephemeral release of thin, sunny pop, which has dominated the region’s musical output as distinctly as the frosty ire of black metal. With their second album, Pop Cycle, Marching Band seems content to hover around the likable midrange of this style, plying inoffensively rudimentary tunes that remain persistently anonymous.
It might seem like the only memorable thing about the band is their country of origin, which is even less interesting considering the waves of similar groups that Sweden has produced. But the songs here have a definite affable quality. Snapped together from catchy, easily fitted parts, tracks like “It Is Hidden” have a lazy charm that makes for perfect summer listening. It’s certainly true that the group never strains for anything that it can’t snag easily. “Uncomfortably Numb” has a hazily derivative quality that merges boilerplate lyrics with rotely pleasant guitar work.
Marching Band’s closest cousin of late seems to be the band at the center of Bahman Ghobadi’s No One Knows About Persian Cats that creates a similar style of burnished indie rock. Pop Cycle may have been recorded in California, while the other was forged under the oppressively backward Iranian regime, but they both share a lovingly faithful handling of basic underground tropes. Both are uniformly bright-eyed, boiling down a wide field of influences into music whose aims stretch little further than the straightforward joy of creation. Both are simple and congenial despite their limited goals.
It seems fitting that Marching Band’s music has garnered far more credits for background appearances in movies and TV shows than it has press coverage. On its own, Pop Cycle stands as the kind of album that, once summer moves on, will probably end up lying dormant and largely forgotten. For now, it’s an easy shot of warm bliss, a nice trifle whose yield feels just insubstantial enough.