by Jonathan Bannister (@j_utah)
What goes around comes around they say. When Holograms came out of Sweden in 2012 they were originally shrouded in mystery. And then they had a van get broken into, were stranded in France with no money, and weren’t sure if they could get work visas to tour the United States. They put out their debut album and went on tour only to come back even broker than they already were. They put it all into their second album in 2013. Life kept dealing them blows but their hooks were catchy, the bass lines driving, the urgency present as they infected their post-punk despair with a pop sense of hope. And then that was it. The band went seemingly dark.
Cut to June of 2017 and Holograms once again emerged with a new single and a video and the promise of a new album. And then, once again there was nothing. Once again there was a U.S. tour planned that was canceled at the last minute by more visa issues and so the new expected album limped out on July 28. It was only found on their label's website to buy on vinyl and on their website there was a Soundclould stream of the whole album. It has since shown up on the streaming services and iTunes. So much for the triumphant return.
Surrender is an apt title but hopefully there’s no waving of the white flag yet because for those willing to track it down, there is the same strong songwriting you remember while maturing their sound into something fuller. On first listen, it almost sounds vastly different then their previous albums, a trick played on the ears due to the length between albums. But if you play it back to back with their previous work what you find is a continuation. This is still very much a Holograms album.
There’s a somber feeling running throughout Surrender. The songs are slowed down, the synths are pushed to the front. Everything is even more dramatic. Andreas Lagerstrom’s voice has a hint of melancholy to it and is alone this time out. Gone are the sing along anthems, the chorus of voices shouting in unison. Anton Strandberg is gone on drums, replaced by Jonas Jonson. His drumming is anthemic and marching. Lots of rolling and pounding on the toms and snare.
The instrumental "I Begynnelsen" (In the Beginning) opens up the record with a pulse of something beginning in motion. Made entirely of synths, the song announces the arrival of the album, gives you the vibe you can expect to encounter. "Ikaros" (Icarus) soars in, sending out Lagerstrom’s voice out to the masses. A call for the new dawn to shine. A hopeful return, a new day breaking into the gloom. It doesn’t last. The single "Shame" feels the most like their previous tracks. A driving post punk fury of a song that challenges you not to move. "Any Day Now" melds the old and new vibes together into a kind of statement song for the album. Elsewhere on the album, stand out tracks like "Oblivious" and "Simulacrum" show what Holograms does best.
It’s a shame they seem to constantly encounter troubles one after the other but then again who doesn’t in these current times. Surrender is a strong album from a band that continues to fight against everything that comes against them. It feels like listening to a band who makes music because they have to. Because if they don’t they just might cease to exist. And there’s no higher stakes than that.