The rise of the iPod has partially changed the way users evaluate music, because now it's easier to find room in our lives for those ungainly albums with three great songs and a lot of filler, or with a lot of great songs that don't fit well together, or with songs that sound exhaustingly similar. The debut album by Swedish pop chanteuse Sarah Assbring—a.k.a. El Perro Del Mar—falls into that third category. El Perro Del Mar sports a stunning sound that combines the bewitching ethereality of Kate Bush and Cocteau Twins with the lipstick-and-spangle pop sense of Motown and the Brill Building, all draped in a deeply Scandinavian sorrow. For three minutes at a time, El Perro Del Mar's songs feel like the only thing happening in the world, but after two or three songs in a row, it's tempting to switch her off and start moving again.
For purposes of some future iPod shuffle though, moody pop fans need a copy of El Perro Del Mar's "God Knows (You Gotta Give To Get)," a charmingly airy tune with cooing background singers, lush strings, and a rumbling sax solo, arranged to create a feeling that's simultaneously positive and eerily distant. Or "Party," which employs the "be-bop-a-lula" grammar of a happy song, but recasts it as something somber, led by El Perro Del Mar's tear-streaked, monotone voice. Almost every song on El Perro Del Mar hangs cheerful orchestration over a core of methodically strummed guitars and robotic rhythms, creating a sharply divided sonic space for the singer to occupy. Then she settles into it, arms around her knees, like a little girl singing The Ronettes softly to herself and trying not to weep.