Jonah Bromwich only occasionally believes in correct behavior.
There are certain people who you trust to make great pop music. Phil Spector. Brian Eno. Kanye West.
The male half of the Raveonettes, Sune Rose Wagner, isn’t at the level of those three yet, but he’s one to watch. Aside from meticulously crafting the Danish band’s sound over their last four excellent albums, he had a hand in mixing the Dum Dum Girls’ most precise, mature collection, 2011’s Only in Dreams. And now his name pops up in the credits, alongside frequent collaborator, producer Alonzo Vargas, on the new Eternal Summers album, Correct Behavior.
Before Wagner and Vargas were listed (as mixer and producer, respectively), the Summers were a band without a clear musical identity, dabbling in sunny pop before switching over to a kind of garbled, underdeveloped punk. Though a mixer and producer can’t be said definitively to have taught a band how to be, their names in the credits coincide with a huge leap forwards in quality for Eternal Summers. Correct Behavior has ten songs. Eight of them are good. Five of those eight are great.
There are simple tricks at work. On first track “Millions,” singer Nicole Yun keeps her voice sweet and steady, singing pleasantly about how great everything looks outside. Four lines later though, Daniel Cundiff starts pounding on the drums and the pleasant guitar drops out. Yun’s voice gets louder and whinier and we’re suddenly served a heap of jagged guitar that contrasts nicely with the sound that came before. Soft to loud. Pleasant to harsh. Two and a half minutes. Easy.
“It’s Easy,” is actually the name of another of the great songs, this one a slow burner of the kind you couldn’t find on the group’s last effort, the 2010 album, Silver. The song is reminiscent of the Dum Dums, in the best kind of way—it proves that a band that previously hid below fuzz sounds terrific in high fidelity. When making out the words isn’t a struggle, you realize the strength of the group’s songwriting. “It’s Easy” is a sarcastic lament about a romantic loss. It turns out that what’s easy is “to forget the one you love,” to watch something important “disintegrate.” In other words, it’s not that easy, you guys.
“You Kill” is the best and catchiest song on the album, and it’s here that everything truly comes together in a way that suggests the full potential of this band. There are fantastic Atari riffs framing the verses and Yun slowly catches up to the vibe, calm until the end of the chorus when her voice rises to intone the fiery, eponymous accusation. The song is reminiscent of some of the Raveonettes best work, particularly off their most summery album, 2009’s In and Out of Control. From songs like “You Kill,” we can see that even if Wagner didn’t create the music himself, there’s a reason that he’s drawn to it, and it’s clear that he feels compelled to perfect it.
My point isn’t to detract from Yun, Cundiff, and bassist Jonathan Woods. They’ve put together a great album, and deserve, probably, even more credit than I’ve already given them. My point is, when you see the name Sune Rose Wagner, it’s probably a good idea to listen to the project. The man hasn’t missed in a long time, and he’s only getting better.