May 7, 2024

Swedish psych-rock wonders MaidaVale released their new album Sun Dog on May 3rd. It seems like ages since their last release, 2018’s Madness Is Too Pure which followed their 2016 debut Tales of the Wicked West, but it’s certainly been worth the wait! For those not familiar with the band, MaidaVale is a rock band that met and formed in Fårösund on Gotland, Sweden, in 2012. On the Baltic Sea island, the foursome shared the same vision and laid down the foundation of this heavy psychedelic, 60’s and 70’s influenced band. Ever since they launched themselves onto the Stockholm underground scene a decade ago, they’ve been wowing audiences with their spirited energy, combining energetic neo-psychedelia and krautrock with influences ranging from post-punk, funkadelia and the North African blues. It’s great stuff, and especially compelling seen live!

MaidaVale are a foursome, still comprising the original members – Matilda Roth is the vocalist and livewire dynamo on stage; Sofia Ström simply masterful on guitars; Linn Johannesson and Johanna Hansson a rock-solid pairing on bass and drums respectively. Without losing sight of their characteristic modern psych-rock and experimental krautrock influences, Sun Dog allows the melodies to step further into the spotlight. Sofia’s playful guitar with heavy fuzz and analogue echo makes for a dazzling soundscape, capturing the energy of the band’s highly acclaimed live performances. You can detect influences ranging from Stereolab, Bauhaus, Kebnekajse and Kate Bush.

Sun Dog could be described as a journey along the fine line between euphoria and melancholia. . The band found a whole new spark in the recording process at Svenska Grammofonstudion together with producers Kalle Gustafsson Jerneholm (The Soundtrack of Our Lives, Josefin Öhrn, The Hives) and György Barocsai, still sticking to their signature approach of recording the lion’s share in collective live takes. The album is reinforced with additional percussion by Said Ag Ayad (Tinariwen) and with John Agnello (The Black Angels, Kurt Vile) mixing one of the most prominent tracks on the album.

For the first time, we actually took time in the studio. It gave us room for both experimentation and reflection”, says guitarist Sofia. With Matilda’s direct and stirring yet dynamic vocal performance in its prime as ever, the songs explore different aspects of inner conflicts and yearnings in its lyrics. “Ultimately it’s an encouragement to, if you have the possibility, go out and find the way that’s right for you, even if no one is following behind” says the singer.

MaidaVale live

On with the music – and we’re immediately on safe, happy ground with opening track Faces [Where is Life] – a bouncing bubbly hypnotic slab of excellent psychedelia, simply wonderful to listen to, totally addictive and a real ear-worm! Fools continues they same spacey vibe, Matilda sounding like a Scandinavian reincarnation of Grace Slick in her pomp! Some really nice percussion on this track as well, plus a really strong loping bass-line – and a scorching burst of fuzz, it’s an extremely strong band performance.

Give Me Your Attention ramps up the energy level after a languid, teasing start. A driving rhythm propels this psych-rock at breakneck pace, it’s a compelling blend of contemporary rock and classic late 60’s “whirling dervish hippydom”! Daybreak is so tuneful, Sofia can conjure up these rhythmic and lead licks with her eyes closed. It’s a simple track but completely absorbing.

Wide Smile, All is Fine follows, straight in with a glorious blend of fuzz and bluesy wah-wah guitar. An insidious line really gets inside your head, giving the foundation for some splendidly loose solo. This track personifies their beautifully loose (but tight!), live sound – you feel like you’re stood in the studio with them recording this. Mesmeric stuff, and guitar playing of the highest quality.

Control has a darker, more modern vibe, this one perfectly distils their krautrock tendencies. Synths add to the electro-beat vibe without any let-up in the hypnotic stakes. Pretty Places continues the more modern aspect of the band’s repertoire, still featuring a really strong bass-line, snappy percussion, dreamily melodic….

Alla Dagar continues this cleaner, sparser mood, still featuring immersive percussion and bass, some wonderfully hypnotic guitar work from Sofia and surprisingly gentle vocals from Matilda – it’s another very fresh, very organic, live sound. The song-set is brought to a conclusion with Vultures, which captures both modern psych-rock and krautrock in a punchy, powerful track that highlights all four musicians’ talents, the percussion being especially strong here. It somehow reminds me of The Verve at their very best, it’s the strength of the arrangement coupled with wonderfully tight live playing that stands out for me….as impassioned and impressive as ever!

Sun Dog extracts the band’s essence – a modern take on psych-rock and the blues, featuring some vibrant interplay, captivating beats, raw vocals and innovative guitar – down to a more colourful and ecstatic collection of songs. The album is released on the band’s newly founded record label Silver Dagger, a decision that came naturally as the members always strive to be as free and authentic as possible in the creative process. It’s a great, enthralling album, and it’s great to hear these guys still loving their music!