I'm From Barcelona Let Me Introduce My Friends

Full disclosure: despite their name, I’m From Barcelona are not, in fact, from the sun-drenched beaches of Barcelona. Rather, this 29-piece music collective hail from the chilly fjords of Jonkoping, Sweden, which would explain the distinct lack of anything resembling a tan within the group’s ranks. Founded just last year by chief songwriter Emanuel Lundgren, the name is ostensibly a hat-tip to Fawlty Towers character Manuel, but it goes beyond that, exuding a childlike wonder, sounding more like a romantic playground boast than an actual geographical statement. It also perfectly captures the tone of Let Me Introduce My Friends, far and away one of the best pop albums you’ll hear this year, no matter where you’re from. Opening with the jaunty xylophone and strumming guitars of "Oversleeping,” Lundgren’s wide-eyed, matter-of-fact deadpan floats over a rich soundscape packed with craft instruments and layers of swooping backup vocals that manages to teem with musical detail, yet stay hum-along simple. Lundgren’s lyrics revel in childhood’s boundless enthusiasm and innocent fascinations: building tree houses, stamp collecting, tape recorders, even finding an upside to illness in "Chicken Pox.” The group’s bloated size could have been a detriment here, but the composition stays impressively focused and crisp. All those sets of lungs are put to good use, as well, making for some truly uplifting multi-part harmonies and dense, shout-along choruses. It all comes together to the best effect on the album’s standout track, "We’re From Barcelona,” a sparkling, exultant pop anthem. I’m from Barcelona don’t know how it works; they just know it works. Why pull it apart when you could lay back and enjoy the moment? (Audio 8)