The Legends' 'Keep Him': Listen to the Exclusive Premiere

The Legends

It’s been six years since mysterious Swedish alt-pop outfit The Legends released its last album, 2009’s shoegaze paean Over and Over. But frontman Johan Angergård has been far from idle.

Angergård has released two albums (in 2010 and 2013) with his more tropically minded duo Club 8, another in 2011 with the jangly quartet Acid House Kings, a fourth project as the dreamy synth-pop group Pallers and, earlier this year, a fifth collaborative album under the name Eternal Death. All those albums, plus critically-praised releases from The Radio Dept., Mary Onettes and Sound of Arrows, were distributed by Angergård’s Labrador, an influential Stockholm-based record label founded in 2001.

“When I started The Legends, the idea was to have musicians who couldn’t play at all, it didn’t matter if they played really poorly live,” Angergård recalls of the group’s experimental beginnings. “It was just noisy and simple. But it’s turned into something completely different -- it has to sound good, not just people playing instruments they’ve never played before.”

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So when it came time to release The Legends’ latest album, It’s Love (due June 30, now available for pre-order), Angergård decided to seek outside help for the first time. “When I wrote the first song, I knew that I didn’t want to release it myself,” he says of the deeply personal collection, which was inspired by the dissolution of one relationship (which included the birth of his daughter) and the start of a new one. “I’ve been doing everything on my own, not really getting any feedback from anyone, not having anyone coming up with ideas of what to do with the material or ideas on how to get it out.”

Angergård instantly thought of Cascine, a Brooklyn-based boutique that began as a U.S. offshoot of Scandinavian label Service in 2009 that’s released stylish, globe-spanning pop albums from the likes of Chad Valley, Kisses, Keep Shelly In Athens and Yumi Zouma over the years. Founder Jeff Bratton cites Angergård and Labrador as a reference point “for what Cascine has become and strives to become. It was really an honor that he trusted us with his material, especially such a personal album, and let us help put that out into the world.”

Lead track “Keep Him,” which Billboard can exclusively premiere below, sets the tone for the intimate project, which finds Angergård singing in a vulnerable reverbed vibrato, but atop beats that wouldn’t be out of place on a champagne-popping '80s R&B album. That juxtaposition keeps It’s Love from becoming too uncomfortably sad in the same way that fellow Swede Jens Lekman can deftly mix tones, with standouts like “All About Us” and “Winter Is The Warmest Season” (a duet with Club 8’s Karolina Komstedt) offering glimpses of sunshine to the otherwise chilly, synth-driven proceedings.

Though It’s Love was recorded in a matter of days, the road to making it was an uncertain one. “I was convinced I wouldn’t make any more Legends albums,” Angergård says. “In the other bands I produce, we do everything together. But The Legends it’s almost too personal, so I had to wait until I had material that I couldn’t see doing with anyone else.” He credits turning 40 recently with his newly relaxed attitude towards music making. “You’re sort of halfway through life, so somehow some things seem to lose importance. And I felt I was at a place in life where I don’t belong anywhere. I enjoy very much making music, but my whole life I’ve been living under the wrong assumption that I can do whatever I want in life without expecting anything back. In a way, I’ve always needed to belong somewhere, I’ve needed to be someone.”

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Partnering with Cascine seems to have rejuvenated Angergård’s creativity, with Club 8 expected to release another album this year, as well as visit the States for the first time in seven years with a performance at Brooklyn’s Littlefield on May 31 as part of the New York Popshop Festival. “I’m in a good place when it comes to writing songs this year -- I want to capture that moment and do the most with it,” he says.

As part of the new relationship, Cascine will handle forthcoming releases from The Mary Onettes, and potentially other Labrador artists where it makes sense. “We have a similar ethos in our approach to pop music,” Bratton says. 


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