With their U.S. debut, Private Cinema, having met with tastemaker approval and favorable impressions at the most fashionable music festivals, Danish five-piece Slaraffenland faces make-or-break expectations with their follow-up, We’re on Your Side. Never less than a pleasant listen, the album stumbles because it’s never more than that either. Though there’s a genuine warmth to the band’s multi-tracked vocal harmonies, with more than one voice singing lead throughout the record, the problem is that those vocal arrangements are rarely used to sing anything specific, leaving the album to float untethered to anything of real consequence. Lead single “Meet and Greet,” which uses the album’s title as its hook, employs only the vaguest of allusions to flesh out its central conflict, resulting in a song that lacks any palpable tension or narrative focus. It sounds lovely, sure, but it’s so open-ended that it could be about literally anything, so who’s to say why anyone is picking sides? “The Right Place” and “Falling Out” are similarly anchorless, though the vocal track is so obscured in the mix on “Stars and Smiles” and “Too Late to Think” that it’s actually difficult to make out what the band is singing. That the lyrics aren’t the selling point of We’re on Your Side keeps the focus on the instrumental arrangements that are Slaraffenland’s real strength. Even though the tempo rarely climbs above a midtempo churn, there’s a definite shape to each track, with the swirling, atmospheric arrangements recalling Sigur Rós. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it’s hard not to wish that Slaraffenland showed greater focus and ambition.
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