The oddly named Hey Elbow are a trio from Malmö, Sweden. I guess that talking to a joint makes more sense in Swedish...
The center of the band is vocalist and guitarist Julia Ringdahl who has an intense, strong voice. She reminds me of Beach House's Victoria Legrand, or maybe Tamaryn. It's a great voice, and she obviously really knows what she is doing.
Hey Elbow is rounded out with drummer Liam Amner (isn't "Liam" an Irish name?) and Ellen Petersson who adds horns, synths, and keys. It's a pretty simple lineup, but they do well with it.
The sound they make is "Swedish electropop". I am reminded of Bel Canto in particular (add Anelli Drecker to the list of voices that Ringdahl is reminiscent of), although there is some of The Cardigans, Celestial, Fever Ray, and Shout Out Louds thrown in. This is catchy music that has a lot of electronics, which brings to mind Braids, who are not Swedish but work within a similar framework. The reliance on electronics make the whole thing seems vaguely shoegazery or dreampoppy.
There is a little under 40 minutes worth of music here, broken up into eleven tracks.
Things start with a meandering Intro of synths and muted horn sounds i guess Petersson's showcase. Amner comes in with some nice drumming and we are into Martin. Synths blurt and Ringdahl comes in, really singing on the choruses where she is backed by horns. This is pretty energetic.
Petersson kicks off Rael with a very Gang of 4 kind of bass synth sound, so much so that i expect to hear Ringdahl kick off the vocals with "The change will do you good"! But once the whole band comes in, it veers off into a different space. This is another nice song, the instrumental breaks between verses featuring some very nice hornwork.
Hey Elbow start Blanca ambiently with oohing voice and strange tinkling sounds. Shades of Biosphere here, but when the band comes in it is back to the catchy pop. Mathilde brings in some gamelans style samples and some vocal harmonies in a bright song that seems almost Japanese to me.
Naksno is a darker tune, the synths an eerie drone and the drum an angry tapping, as Ringdahl moans the lyrics. I don't know what Naksno means in Swedish, but it sounds un-fun. The song is nice though.
Ruth adds layers of echo to Ringdahl's voice, which couples with the scattered drumming to give this song a very spacious feel. I like the way the song gathers speed as it moves along. Saga is tinkling synths and guitar wallowing in tremolo. Ringdahl sings heartrendingly here, really pouring it on. This might be my favorite on the album. It is the most "Hey Elbow" of the songs here.
Alice starts off slowly and grows to a really epic frenzy, Amner playing cymbal-heavy stadium drumming while Petersson wails on a horn. It's dense and messy and pretty cool. It fades into Finn where an organ drones the song along, basically guaranteeing the Beach House comparison.
Next is the Outro a nice minute or so of unfocused droning... But then Hey Elbow try to that 1990s thing and add in a "hidden track" by putting in half a minute of silence. When this "hidden track" does come in, it is pretty epic. Another slow burn of a tune that grows and grows into Ringdahl wailing away over some keyboards and a steady drum beat. Eventually Petersson layers in some horns, which is a nice touch. A good tune, but unnecessarily tacked onto the end of another tune. Here is a hint kids: "hidden tracks" do not work in the era of MP3 music.
Overall, this is pretty nice. I like the overall aesthetic they are going for here, but i freely admit that it might not appear to a wider audience.