"The Spin We're In" is the debut album from the Swedish band Astropol. Released digitally in December 2015 and on vinyl in January 2016 by INGRID Records, this is an outstanding collection of ten songs that took 4-5 years for the band to complete. Why so long? Probably because the group is more of a "collective" than a proper, dedicated band, with each of the members being established artists in their own right.
Bebban Stenborg is a member of the Shout Out Louds, Björn Yttling is one-third of Peter Björn & John, and Smash (maybe a little more of a mystery) has previously worked with Björn and is an established Swedish music producer.
The band name "Astropol" is supposedly a word they made up that refers to a fictitious star city light years away. The band description on their Facebook page reads:
"Astropol is a star city - petrified and barren up close, tender and bright from a distance.
Astropol is a constellation of hard matter, dying light and what ever love is."
Lyrically, most of the songs on the album seem to tell of relationships that look warm and cozy from a distance, but are quite the opposite from within. In that sense, I guess you could say it's an album full of love songs, but with clever lyrics that talk about love, loss and longing from a unique perspective.
Musically, the sound is modern indie pop - a mix of rock, acoustic and electronic. Two things I'm left with after listening to "The Spin We're In" are:
How great and consistent Bebban's vocals are throughout the album. Soft and perfect for every song - from the upbeat, rocky ones to the slow, more contemplative ones, and
The fact that you can really hear Björn Yttling's songwriting and production influence on many of these songs. That means they are sophisticated, some are pretty catchy, and nothing important gets lost in the mix.
Björn has not only been writing and producing the Peter Björn & John material over the past 17 years, but has written and produced other well-known artists, including Lykke Li, Chrissie Hynde, Anna Ternheim, Lisa Miskovsky and Teddybears. Two songs from the album - the rocky "The Shelter of My Love" and the soft, contemplative "Rain Down on You" - both sound like songs that would have been great Lykke Li tracks.
Several singles have already been released from the album, including "The Sound of a Heart That Breaks", "Just Before Out Love Got Lost", "Make Love Stay", and most recently "Always You and Me".
The three standout tracks on the upbeat, almost dancy aspect of the album include "Make Love Stay", "Little Cloud" and "The Sound of a Heart That Breaks". In fact, the same syncopated drum machine can be heard in both "Make Love Stay" and "Little Cloud" - two of the catchiest songs on the album. "Make Love Stay" is the only single to have an officially released video from the band. This was the song that I first heard that made me want to hear more Astropol with its catchy, and nicely melodic chorus:
"Somewhere in the back of my head, I can hear someone say,
You can make love leave, but you can't make love stay"
MAKE LOVE STAY (Official Video):
Apart from the more lively songs on the album, the slower, more reflective songs are impressive both musically and lyrically. Bebban softly walks us through each of the stories each song tells. "Always You and Me" is supposedly written about a good friend's sudden passing. "There Used to be Birds" seems to refer to the death of a lover who is now watching from afar. "True Love" sounds like something right off a Goldfrapp album with its playful tempo, and vocal style.
"Rain Down on You" has simple, echo-like vocals, sweet melody and interesting lyrics. It appears to be written from the viewpoint of an unrequited lover (or stalker?) who is no longer on this earth, but discovers a way to continue chasing the object of her affection:
"Waiting for the clouds to gather me,
I'll never stop falling for you,
and you will always run from me -
I found way, I'm gonna get to you,
I'm gonna rain, I'm gonna rain, down on you".
Hopefully, this little collective will be making more great music sometime soon - and let's hope before another 4-5 years of songwriting pass.
In the meantime, follow Astropol on their Facebook page, check out their website, and have a listen to "The Spin We're In" on Spotify, TIDAL or your favorite music streaming service.
For vinyl lovers, you can find the very nicely packaged vinyl version, complete with glossy cover, inner sleeve with lyrics, and heayweight vinyl disc from INGRID records online shop.