Band names can do a lot for a band in this day and age, making them stand out amongst a list of their peers and even allowing listeners to know whether or not they're going to like the music they make before they've even pressed play. As a result, Swedish two-piece I Used To Be A Sparrow immediately grabbed my attention appealing to my slightly emo sensibilities in much the same way that both I Was A Cub Scout and The World Is A Beautiful Place and I Am No Longer Afraid To Die did before them. However I Used To Be A Sparrow are not an emo band. What they are is a band that makes an impressively full sound for just two men, and a band whose blend of electronic pop-rock shines and shimmers as if touched by a first frost.
Their second full-length album You Are An Empty Artist drips with the same poetic flair that their name does, however it goes without saying that many people will consider the band pretentious, simply off the basis of their name. Those who don't dig a little deeper will miss out on a truly special album that will appeal to fans of the likes of Death Cab For Cutie or The Postal Service.
The album opens with 'Laura'; a delicate and a dreamy shoegaze track in which the instrumentation swirls and twinkles in such a way that it brings to mind American indie troubadour Mike Kinsella and any of his various musical forays, which is never a bad thing.Whereas 'Warpaint on Invisible Children' is the second track and features an archaic production quality which could have hampered the overall glisten of the track. As it happens however it adds to the timbre brilliantly and gives some depth to track that would feel somewhat ephemeral without it.
In terms of structure I Used To Be A Sparrow eschew the traditional format in favour of chorus-less songs in a manner that will be familiar to fans of the aforementioned Death Cab. This allows the tracks to be streamlined and propel the album forward with some speed while never once feeling erratic or rushed. In fact the album works far better as a whole. The lyricism throughout the album undoubtedly contradicts my earlier claim of the band not being emo. They certainly uphold quite a degree of introspect and nostalgia as all the best emo bands do. That said, they also maintain an uplifting quality that can't be overlooked.
'I've Got A Feeling We're Not In Kansas Any More' is the shortest song on the album and has a distinct feel of Angels and Airwaves about it. Thankfully the vocals don't ever stray in to the over-pronounced territory of Tom Delonge, and as a result it's one of the strongest songs on the album. Short and to the point it really does encapsulate the overall sound of I Used To Be A Sparrow.
There are probably going to be people who dismiss this album on the grounds that it's pretentious; it's overly-produced, the lyrical content isn't what they'd usually listen to. What those people will be missing out on is an excellent record that's just a little on the short side. This album remembers the trials and the tribulations of adolescence in a way that's (thankfully) much prettier than the actual act of growing up itself. It's an album that wears it's heart on it's sleeve and it isn't afraid who knows it.