It’s been over seven long years, but Alphabeat is back and better than ever with their new album Don’t Know What’s Cool Anymore.
On their first LP since 2012’s Express Non-Stop, the Danish pop band return to their high-energy roots and peppy harmonies on bops like lead single “Shadows,” the unabashedly confident title track and the whistling, nostalgia-tinged “Back of My Bike.”
Elsewhere, the bandmates — led by vocalists Stine Bramsen and Anders SG — also explore new new lyrical and sonic territory, whether in the synth-driven kiss-off of “Now You Know” or the ’60s-inspired folk of album closer “I’d Rather Die”
To celebrate the album’s release on Friday (Nov. 1), the sextet from Silkeborg, Denmark broke down all nine tracks on Don’t Know What’s Cool Anymore, exclusively for Billboard.
“Shadows” was one of the first songs we wrote for the album, and was also a big part of our decision about getting back together. We were working on the song in the studio and suddenly our manager, who was sitting in the next room, came running in screaming, “What is this!?” — we knew we were on to something good. The sound is inspired by Motown stuff like Four Tops. Many Motown songs were upbeat and energetic but with minor chords, and we always found that balance interesting.
“Shadows” is about those days when you wake up, and life just doesn’t feel like fascination. We probably all have those kind of days, but it was new for us to write songs about it. It starts with a kind of signature drumbeat, which we like to think has become a bit of an Alphabeat trademark.
“I Don’t Know What’s Cool Anymore”
Next to our studio there is an office environment, and one day a guy came in with a biking helmet; we knew him and he is a definitely seen as a “cool” guy. Well, he kept the helmet on for a meeting like it was some kind of accessory and Anders SG said, “I just don’t know what’s cool anymore” and everyone agreed that we had to make a song about it. We wrote the song in a day, and it was a really fun session, as everyone in the studio could really relate to the subject.
“Back of My Bike”
“Back of My Bike” is basically a fun loving song about going out with your best friend and let the night take over. No plans, just being carefree. In Copenhagen, we ride our bikes everywhere and there’s a great feeling of freedom connected to that. It has an old school Alphabeat feel that we really like. This song is like a little movie, inspired by stuff like Grease and the “Uptown Funk” video.
“Goldmine” is the rock-n-roll track of the album. We like to think we turn into a three-minute Nickelodeon version of The Rolling Stones on this one. It’s about finding inspiration and working out how to live your life, and make music, from a starting point that is your own. We have a lot of heroes that we look up to…[but] you can’t just copy your heroes, you have to find your own way.
“Sing A Song”
We wrote the chorus for this song on April 20, 2018 — it was an unseasonably warm night in Copenhagen, so we opened the windows in the studio, drank some Crémant, wrote this chorus, and woke up the next day feeling that we had a pretty special song on our hands. “Sing A Song” tells the story of Alphabeat’s journey, from the very early days to the present. It’s very honest and kind of emotional for us to put everything we experienced together into words.
The chorus describes how we have gone back to the core of what Alphabeat is about, and tried to simplify things; “Let’s sing a song, just sing a song. While we’re here we might as well have fun.” That’s what it’s all about for us now. Writing songs that we love and having fun together again, really appreciating every moment.
“Sometimes” was the very first song we wrote and demo’d for the album. It was magic hearing Stine and Anders singing together again, just with an acoustic guitar as backing. The song is about how success comes and goes and dealing with that. It came from the desire to put yourself out there once again, because you feel like you have something more to say, like we do in the band right now. Musically, there’s a country and gospel tradition running though the song, which is something we’ve been exploring in general on this album.
“Now You Know”
For this one, we’re mixing rock and cabaret vibes with some Beatles harmonies. It’s about certain people who are desperately trying to keep up with what’s new and cool, and have a hard time accepting they’re getting older and just don’t know what cool anymore. Let’s just say we’ve met a few in the music industry. “Now You Know” is Alphabeat’s first touch of “b–chy” and it’s so fun to wave goodbye to “cute” for three minutes.
This is one of quite a few songs we’ve recorded at Anders B’s summer house, over a couple of days that were both a kind of long party and recording session. “I was gone a long time, but I’m still your friend…” On the one hand, we’re telling our fans we’re back and everything’s going to be alright!
On the other, this song is Anders and Stine singing from the point of view that love as a concept is bigger than any of us as individuals. We thought this message called for a gospel choir, so we spent a studio session being gospel singers for a day. Towards the end, the choir keeps singing “Guy in a suit, he’s no substitute,” meaning, while we may have become very rational and effective about a lot of things in this day and age, nothing — not even a guy in a suit crunching numbers — can replace love.
“I’d Rather Die”
This is probably the most unlike Alphabeat song on the album. It almost has the vibe of a folky, ’60s protest song. It’s about how we as individuals deal, or fail to deal, with all the crazy things we face in the world right now politically, especially the climate crisis. We really look forward to playing this live, as it is a vibe we haven’t really explored before.
Don’t Know What’s Cool Anymore is out now via Atlantic Records: