Whistle the oriental riff intro to “Young Folks” in a public place, and it certainly will not go unrecognized. Swedish trio Peter Bjorn and John are a household name in the indie community, with their first taste of mainstream success coming from unforeseen traction in pop culture. I myself discovered the song during the first episode of Gossip Girl almost exactly nine years ago to date, but you might have been familiar from the old AT&T commercial, or from Kanye’s sampling on his Can’t Tell Me Nothing mixtape. But regardless of where and how you first heard it, the fact is, you know it, and it was an instant earworm.
Through the years, with three more well-received records, nothing ever hit quite as hard as Writer’s Block, thanks to that hipster whistle song, but that isn’t to say that “Young Folks” was the band’s only achievement, nor does it define Peter Bjorn and John’s sound and artistic vision. They’ve taken creative liberties in experimenting with darker tones on 2009’s Living Thing, and found themselves featured commercially again with “Second Chance”. The sustenance of their career shows that giving people a unique form of pop, one with emotional depth and true character in every track, is what they do best.
And now, five years after Gimme Some, the fans have something to talk about. Released on June 10th, the new record Breakin’ Point covers new ground and serves as a refreshing new taste for a band that seemingly disappeared. For the first time out of their seven records, the band worked with outside producers to churn out a true pop album. It took five years – they took their time with their goals – even with outside collaboration, the resulting animated sound is still unapologetically theirs.
Tracks throughout the album are adorned with the ever-familiar whistling, hearty piano, and upbeat synthesizers that aren’t entirely foreign to the band we knew from five-plus years ago, but now with a late-’70s pop flavor a la ABBA. (“We called ourselves ‘Dancing Kings’ for a couple of weeks,” said drummer John Eriksson.) Some tracks like the lead single “What You Talking About?” and “Domino” are heavier and more demanding, and “Do-Si-Do” quite easily instigates a crowd to move along. “In This Town” breathes out an ambience to slow the energy of the record without telling anybody to stop dancing.