Wildbirds & Peacedrums Heartcore

A husband-wife duo releasing an album titled Heartcore conjures visions of bespectacled, cardigan nerds crooning cutesy sweet nothings to each other over cutesier synths and guitars — hardly my idea of a particularly fun time. Thankfully, all fears are allayed as this Swedish couple demonstrate that their music is anything but pedestrian on their debut, now out a year after its domestic release across the Atlantic. The star of the show is one-time vocal improv student Mariam Wallentin, or rather her voice, which goes from surreal gospel swells on one song to a floating, folksy lilt on the next. It’s to her credit that she can harness the versatility of her voice to a loose pop aesthetic without turning the album into a scattershot collection of vocal experiments. Percussionist hubby Andreas Werliin does well to cede the spotlight to her, although his work, heavy on toms and subtle percussive accents, is essential to the group’s spooky, cavernous sound. Perhaps the album title is appropriate after all — this is a raw, pulsating work of leftfield pop. (Leaf)