Shout Out Louds – Howl Howl Gaff Gaff

What I Think of When I Think of This Artist (part 1)

I haven’t followed this band in the way that I should have – third album Work sort of stopped me cold – and that is on me, because Shout Out Louds (there is no The on the album art, so . . . ) make wonderful music. Formed in Stockholm around 2001, the band consists of three childhood friends – Adam Olenius, Ted Malmros, and Carl von Arbin – and two newcomers, keyboardist Bebban Stenborg and drummer Eric Edman. They had a debut EP by 2003 and Howl Howl Gaff Gaff came out two years later (though a different version with the same title was released in Scandinavian countries in 2003).

What I Think of This Album

If you are particularly stingy and brittle-hearted, you could say this album is basically a collection of eleven different variations on the Cure’s “Close to Me” and “In Between Days.” And if you said that, I admit I would laugh. And then I would punch you in the throat, you joyless fucker.

This is an exuberant and exciting burst of Scandinavian indie pop, and it may be one of my favorite albums. It’s just so goddamn colorful and radiant. I particularly love the slight rasp in Adam Olenius’s voice. 

Like any proper Scandinavian art, there is a strong element of lyrical melancholy that provides a nice counterbalance to the thrilling sounds and bloodrush delivery. Somehow, Shout Out Louds have created the happiest sad music ever. Relatedly, I feel like this quintet was at least partial inspiration for the Pains of Being Pure at Heart.

The band’s firework energy would mean little if it wasn’t harnessed to strong songwriting. If energy is all you want, I have some football chants you might enjoy. No, SOL’s brilliance is in their ability to also craft charming melodies with an immediacy that makes them feel like long-lost classics and to arrange the songs in a way that keeps you engaged and craving repeat listens. 

The keyboard work of Bebban Stornborg (particularly on “100°” (I had to research how to do that degrees symbol and I am fucking stoked that I found it)) is undoubtedly critical, perhaps even responsible for the sound of strings (there is no string section credited but that doesn’t mean anything). Beyond that, drummer Eric Edman (and guest drummer Stellan von Reybekie) is nimble and adept. There is well-placed feedback, fuzz bass, xylophone, wah-wah guitar, melodica, some kind of glockenspiel or something, and a lot of other little touches that add sparkle and glitter. 

As this album is cobbled together, there are multiple producers and mixers, but one of them is Björn Yttling of Peter, Bjorn, and John.

This is low key one of my favorite albums.

The Best Thing About This Album

The exhilaration.

Release Date

October, 2003 (Scandinavia); May, 2005 (International)

The Cover Art

You know what? It’s not bad. If this was the cover of a book in my elementary school library, I would totally read it. The shade of green and the placement of the text on my copy is a little different (i.e., more of a forest green and left justified (but not the Gaff Gaff line))

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