To an unfamiliar listener, the first few moments of Writer’s Block could lead them to believe they are about to embark upon a wispy, pretty, easylistening, electronic‑experimental something‑or‑other. Such expectations are immediately and vehemently confounded by a roaring, rhythmic assertion to the contrary—the epic has begun and it is unclear whether the listener will be laughing or crying by the end. This is a sound that rolls, soars, chugs along, rolls over again, never stopping, never wavering, if perhaps only for a moment. Such a moment merely hints at an assured sadness just below the surface, tricking you into believing you’re about to be let down, however willingly, only for the motion to be reborn yet again. Okay, fine: it is springtime incarnate, slapping you firmly on the back and allowing you to breathe again as though you had forgotten how.
There is a lot going on here: deep and chunky bass-lines, catchy yet unexpected melodies, cascading tonalities. Vocal harmonies sound sharp and soft at the same time, subtly echoing into the background and enveloping the multitude of sounds around them. Layers build upon themselves without ever reaching a pinnacle, without ever exploding and dispensing their energy completely, preferring to stop short, leaving the listener in want of more. Funny, then, the sense of satisfaction derived from it all, this constant motion, these highs and lows, this exercise in opposites. Full and gracious, this is no lazy optimism.
Third time around, Peter Bjorn and John have found their epic in the ordinary, and this is simply and superbly a well-crafted pop album. This is music for keeping stride down the street on a sunny day, gliding down the hill on your bicycle en route to the beach, having a whistle-along with your morning cuppa joe, and everything in between. Refreshing and uplifting, Writer’s Block, of course, demonstrates anything but.