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The understated beauty of the band that wasn’t Love Is All

In Hear This, A.V. Club writers sing the praises of songs they know well—some inspired by a weekly theme and some not, but always songs worth hearing

Julianna Barwick’s Nepenthe was a late-coming favorite of my 2013, an enchanting record that moved quickly from “ambient sounds I can listen to while writing” to “ambient sounds whose ambience I want in every aspect of my life.” A major factor in falling for the record was its third track, “One Half,” the impressionistic refrain of which—“I guess I was asleep that night / Was waiting far”—functions as a surprisingly effective earworm. Fittingly for a simple tune comprising so many intersecting layers, there was something subliminal in my affection for the song, its cascading loops calling back to the nocturnal echo chamber of Love Is All’s 2005 single, “Felt Tip.” 

If Love Is All is remembered for anything these days, it’s for being the spazziest of the Swedish indie-pop acts that bum-rushed top 10 lists, blogrolls, and college-radio stations (then music supervisors and ad agencies) in the mid-’00s. As heard on the group’s debut LP, Nine Times That Same Song, “Felt Tip” is a step outside those feral tendencies—though there are so many post-punk revival fireworks in the coda that it may as well be stamped “as heard on The OC.” (Though, to the best of my knowledge, Love Is All never achieved that particular era-specific benchmark.) The demo version of the track, meanwhile, sounds like an entirely different band, one more fixated on atmosphere and mood. Both incarnations of “Felt Tip” are worth tracking down, but there’s a quiet beauty to the demo that didn’t fully translate to the album cut, an understated ache about looking in from the outside. In that case, it’s the opposite of the outward-looking Barwick track that inspired me to get back in touch with “Felt Tip”—but both will make pretty decent side-by-side companions on some future playlist.