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July 7, 2008 | by  | in Music |
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Album: Peter Moren – The Last Tycoon

The Last Tycoon is the first solo outing from Peter Morén, Swedish songwriter of Peter Björn and John fame. Pieced together over a couple of years, it’s a thin, minimal affair, perfectly showcasing Morén’s endearing meld of wry charm and social unease. Fans of Lennon’s solo work or Leonard Cohen’s darker material will no doubt be delighted by this album.

Instrumentally, there’s not too much going on here – standard folk-style guitar figures sway gently, and barely-there drums underpin Morén’s breathy vocal delivery. The occasional burst of keys or tin drums surfaces from time to time, mostly just to emphasise a certain point.

Opener ‘Reel to Real’ illustrates this bare approach nicely; a tense acoustic melody sets the scene before Morén jumps in, peeling off evocative, unsettled lines like ‘I took the bus to town/ ‘cause I couldn’t stand to spend the night with them.’ Later in the piece he begs the question ‘who wants to be real?’ over disorientating bursts of sharp piano.

Elsewhere, production effects lend a sense of the cinematic to Morén’s approach. ‘Old Love’ introduces itself with a pretty piano melody smothered in tape hiss, with Morén’s voice softly cutting through the mix. Despite the continued reliance on the core elements of nicely-paced acoustic fingerpicking and breathy accented vocals a la fellow Swede Jose Gonzalez, Morén does occasionally throw an interesting left hook. ‘Tell Me in Time’ features some great vibraphone and double-bass parts, giving it a slick French pop vibe, and ‘My Match’ relies more strongly on surprisingly abrasive electric guitar.

Morén’s idols are obvious; a lot of these songs here sound like John Cale b-sides, and ‘Le Petit Coeur’ is as close to a direct mimicry of post-Beatles Lennon angst as you could get without actually covering ‘Working Class Hero’. Despite this, you can still hear distinctive elements through all of the channelling, especially when it comes to lyrical subject matter. Morén’s is a tense world of struggling social graces and anxiety, but he tells his tales colourfully enough to steer clear of the trite and meaningless observations prevalent in a lot of confessional music. ‘This Is What I Came For’ is the best example here; a sharp, self-deprecating jaunt through the social privilege and misconceptions of the narrator that seems to find some final sense of hope.

The Last Tycoon is a skilfully-executed minimalist vision, a great collection of intimate songs that deftly explores the all-toofamiliar themes of social unease and personal uncertainty. This is surely an album for those strange Sunday mornings when you’re not quite sure what’s what.

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