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You aren’t likely to find a more enthusiastic champion of Sweden’s Labrador Records than this writer, but the first glimpse at their latest signing, Little Big Adventure, left me a little disappointed. On its own, “Happiest Times” is a melancholy tune that alludes to the major touchstones of the label’s roster–the swimming, dark skies of the shoegaze movement; the low production values of British indie-pop pioneers of the mid-1980s; the poetic, shameless earnestness of the twee sound. However, here the sound is almost a degree removed, that of a musician being influenced by Labrador artists themselves. The result is that it feels less inspired than the work of labelmates such as The Radio Dept. and The Mary Onettes.
That said, “Happiest Times” is likely being held to an unfair standard, one set by one of the most consistently pleasing independent music labels around. On its own, the track clearly possesses a potent emotional depth and a deft layering of instrumentation that can so easily elude a solo artist on their debut. “Happiest Times” is a kind portent of the Little Big Adventure that will await us when Magnus Sätterström delivers his full-length premiere. Until then, it is an undersized appetizer that leaves the listener hoping for a little bit more.