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Sara Berg - When I Was Young I Used to Feel Pleasure from Playing with Others

  by Anthony Dhanendran

published: 9 / 11 / 2007

Sara Berg - When I Was Young I Used to Feel Pleasure from Playing with Others
Label: Gay Monkey Records
Format: CD


Flawed, but eventually satisfying second album from promising Scandinavian singer-songwriter Sara Berg

Talented singer-songwriters can sometimes leave one feeling rather unsatisfied once they pass a certain point, producing promising early material before succumbing to mainstream tastes and watering down what made them interesting in the first place. That is, of course, what happens to all musical artists once they reach a certain size, but those on their own seem to fall faster and harder than others, perhaps because they've got no-one to fall back on. Sara Berg's gnomic second album, then, starts promisingly, with a distorted bassline serving as the introduction to short opening track 'Last Time My Anger'. It's only on the second track, 'Crawl Back from Under' that her vocals and her pop sensibility become apparent in a tune that's poppy, understated and majestic all at once. The (sort of) title track 'Young Child' is less interesting in many ways, as is 'This Can't Be Desire', which is a kind of minor-key torch song with an early Pet Shop Boys melody. It's all in a very Scandinavian minor key so far, as is 'Demons', which shares a Pet Shops Boys instrumentation but only slightly intrigues because of the ambiguously menacing lyrics. 'Out of My League' has a touch of glitchtronica about it, and while 'Call Me From Below' sounds at first much more mainstream, it contains twists and turns while sustaining a 4/4 beat, which is no mean achievement. It's not all pure dance, though: 'Not Alone' carries a heavy goth influence, while Berg appears to have invented a kind of chill-out lounge-goth with 'Hold On', if you can imagine such a thing. Final track 'Closer to Home' is a fitting ending, an old-fashioned torch song that closes with the lyric: “Do you remember the way home, and the stories we were told?” Berg's voice is excellent and evocative, and her pop sensibility is strong – although it's mixed with a healthy dose of downbeat miserabilism in the form of her minor-key obsession. There are shades of pop greats, such as the aforementioned Tennant and Lowe, and Annie Lennox, here, but Berg's songs can become a touch repetitive. Overall, there's enough here to make it satisfying, but there's a worrying amount of not-quite-filler-but-not-quite-prime music.

Track Listing:-
1 Last Time My Anger
2 Crawl Back From Under
3 Young Child
4 This Can't Be Desire
5 Demons
6 I Had To Trace
7 Out Of My League
8 Call Me From Below
9 Not Alone
10 Babies & Beautiful Things
11 Hold On
12 Closer To Home

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