Love Is Not Pop
While listening to the recently released album from Swedish pop artist El Perro del Mar (Sarah Assbring), I quickly realized I was being pulled into a cathartic experience evoked by Assbring's ethereal vocals and repetitive, melancholic lyrics. Starting with the track “Gotta Get Smart” and ending with “A Better Love,” the songs hold true to the healing process of a breakup, especially the desperate hold of a co-dependent first love.
As the title provokes, Love Is Not Pop is not cute; it is pain, loneliness, desperation, heartbreak, losing yourself, finding yourself, and after having wept, hope. For the artist, the album is about “the dream of a pure love in a dirty world.” Unlike many other similar artists with equally melancholic lyrics, Assbring sings her hurt, exposing a vulnerability to her listeners that is at times comforting and uncomfortable because of the intimacy it offers—and, perhaps unknowingly, requests.
“Gotta Get Smart” is undeniably the most important song on the album. It’s about the moment in time when you finally realize you’re done. This decided confidence comes through the somber, repetitive lyrics: “We’ve been together for so long. Don’t wanna break you’re heart. I’m done, I’m done thinking it over...I gotta get smart.”
“Change of Heart” and “L Is For Love” are both dominated by a sense of heaviness: dark chords, ethereal vocals, deep sighs, and a bitter tone. In the first, it is unclear whether the repeated lyrics “he will never stop” is about abuse or simply incompatibility, but the song is about realizing you cannot change the person you love, even though you may have “been dreaming for so long.” The latter is encompassed by feeling defeated “when the hope is gone." The exhausting plea, “Let Me In,” is driven by an unpleasant beat and equally anxious lyrics: “Baby open up the door. I don’t make me have to beg for love. I want to be your fool, if that’s all I’m gonna be.”
“It Is Something (To Have Wept)” is inspired by a G. K. Chesterton poem titled “The Great Minimum,” and at this point, the desperation that dominated the last few tracks is replaced with acceptance and appreciation for the lessons learned. “Better Love” marks the end of the emotional journey and the desire to be content and optimistic “til better love comes.” It is also a conclusion: “This isn’t over til I say when. When. When.” It’s done.
El Perro del Mar is currently touring North America.