The writing here is celebratory and, well, anthemic, with a whiff of Sufjan Stevens. The broad range of instrumentation combined with laptop work recalls the excellent Swedish trio Tape. Initial reservations that Opsvik & Jennings display cleverness rather than heart are dispelled with repeated listening. Their vision is odd, combining jazz and pop, melody amd whimsy with a dollop of kitsch, but it is done with such delicacy and tenderness that this is an album one could fall in love with.
Music can act like an audio photograph, recalling fond but oft forgotten memories. Between 1996 and 1998, great albums were being made by Tortoise ("Millions Now Living Will Never Die"), Gastr Del Sol ("Camofleur"), Bundy K Brown ("Directions In Music") and Matmos ("The West"). These are the albums my brother and I used to play sitting outside in the garden on long summer days, the music pouring out of the rear bedroom window. "Commuter Anthems" takes those cherished sounds and distils them into perfectly formed instalments. Traditional elements (lap steel, banjo, guitars) are juxtaposed with non-organic gurgles and software ticks to conjure effervescent blooms that blossom in full vibrant colour. For some this may be too cloying, but when Opsvik kicks it with the big bass drum on "The Pendler" all objectivity disappears. It´s back to the summer of ´96 and everything is right with the world.
The influence of so-called post-rock bands like Tortoise, Gastr del Sol and Trapist is hard to miss, but the duo ultimately forges its own path. Over shambling yet gentle rhythms the pair sculpts a beautiful patchwork of guitar patterns, organ swells, twangy banjo, nifty samples (including some celeste by Craig Taborn) and occasional horn charts to build irresistible pop melodies. The digitally tweaked arrangements are constantly in flux, adding new wrinkles with each chorus, so even as the music’s tunefulness lodges in the memory, fresh, shifting details emerge continuously. The album is way too good to fuss over how it should be categorized. 4/5.
The music they create is very accessible on the hand, and may pass by without noticing it like some ambient music, when listening superficially. The reward comes from listening with more concentration. As said above they use a great diversity of sounds and instruments, and they paint very colorful pieces with good feeling for style and a great sense for detail and finesse. Also their music is very well constructed in an inventive and original way, far from any cliché. Funny to find this sense for musical adventure within this friendly and comforting music. A great album.