With all the recent excitement and press around ABBA's new album, Voyage, the iconic supergroup's first album release in 40 years, longtime fans and new followers alike are taking a listen to the ten tracks that comprise their new, and likely final, album release. As the album's tracklisting became public, diehard fans were quick to notice that one of the tracks ("Just A Notion") was an unreleased song that ABBA recorded in the late 70's, but one that never saw the light of day in any final form. Only a snippet of an unfinished demo of "Just A Notion" surfaced in "ABBA Undeleted," a medley of studio takes, demos and other unreleased material that appeared on the band's 1994 Thank You For The Music compilation box set.
While there is much excitement to finally hear a finished version of "Just A Notion," if you were to ask any true ABBA fan what unreleased song they'd most like to hear, there's a large contingent that would say, "Just Like That." Briefly, the story goes that in the early 1980's, serveral cassette tapes of work-in-progress ABBA studio recordings were stolen from Björn's car and later leaked. One of the songs on these cassettes was a mostly-finished version of "Just Like That," an ultra-catchy tune with the signature ABBA sound that most likely would have become a hit at the time, had it been released. While fans still seem quite enamored of this song, the band has commented that they were not happy with it, and thus it would not be released. Only an excerpt of the song's chorus later surfaced in the same "ABBA Undeleted" medley from the TYFTM box set.
Fast forward approximately four decades and enter German pop band Groenalund. Comprised of Martin Gerke, Mabel Winkler, Sarah Schumacher, and Karolin Biewald, and inspired by the harmonies and songwriting of the Swedish fab four, these four musicians set out to create their own brand of modern, upbeat pop with a modern and authentic prespective. For Groenalund, music is a time machine with which they travel to the year 1979 to reshape the future from there. Their music is dreamy and theatrical in the best sense, balancing a thin line between melancholy and joie de vivre: there are profound passages, as well as moments of euphoria and lightness. They have been writing and recording songs for their forthcoming album, Lovestorm, originally planned as a December 2021 release, but which has now been postponed to February 2022 due to the hype around the current ABBA Voyage album. According to Groenalund, "The world needs a #lovestorm to heal and Groenaland wants to be a part of it." The band describes Lovestorm as "catchy but sophisticated songs on the brink between melancholy and euphoria."
While putting together Lovestorm, Groenalund wanted to include a cover version of an ABBA song. But which one? Martin Gerke explains, "We mainly write our own songs, but to pay respect to the role model ABBA, we wanted to make a cover version. In a survey of our fans on our homepage, we asked which ABBA song to cover. The result was clear: the vast majority wanted us to record 'Just Like That.'"
On the basis of noisy and differently arranged bootlegs of the original track which are circulating on the internet, Martin reconstructed an impressive version that could have fit on what could have been ABBA's ninth studio album at the time. Staying as true as possible to the original in which verses were sung by Agnetha Fältskog, "Just Like That" is Groenalund's first single with Sarah Schumacher taking the lead on vocals. In the harmoniously rich chorus, Karolin Biewald and Mabel Winkler enter with their voices and do an excellent job of bringing the full ABBA sound to life.
Martin still doesn't really understand why Benny and Björn had a problem with this song after completing the recording. He and the other members of Groenalund consider it to be a perfect pop tune, had a great time recording it, and hope that their version will attract a wider audience to their own music.
Along with "Just Like That," Groenalund has also recently released their original song, "Just A Story" (yes, there a LOT of "Just..." songs mentioned in this post!). With lead vocals by Karolin Biewald, "Just A Story" is a wonderfully multi-layered pop song: rocky, euphoric, positive and melancholic at the same time. And it's also the first song for which guest musician and original ABBA guitarist Janne Schaffer has recorded a short solo in the bridge with Groenalund.
Martin comments, "'Just A Story' is about changes of perspective that can be taken within a lifetime. You look back at what was and realize that you have changed. On the one hand, change and development are important; on the other hand, you want to remain who you are."
Give "Just Like That" and "Just A Story" a listen and stay tuned for the forthcoming Lovestorm album release by Groenalund.