Danish band puts soul in modern pop

Photo courtesy of hitparade.ch

Review by Nick Erickson, Staff writer

Photo courtesy of hitparade.ch

Photo courtesy of hitparade.ch

Over the last few months, the Danish soul-pop band Lukas Graham took the world by storm with their single “7 Years.” The song spread like wildfire across the nation’s radio stations, garnering attention for what made it stand among most other pop songs: it’s emotional as can be. Frontman Lukas Graham Forchhammer, from whom the four-piece band takes the name, shows off his rich, soulful timbre over delicate piano melodies, singing of his parents’ advice on growing up, touching upon the passing of his father and his promising future of having children. This track brings tears to the eyes of listeners everywhere, and there’s good news for fans of the song: the band’s debut self-titled record just hit shelves, and every track is arguably more emotional and striking than the last.

After “7 Years” opens up the record, listeners are graced with the pounding piano chords of “Take The World By Storm,” courtesy of keyboardist Kasper Daugaard. Forchhammer belts out an uplifting message of setting the bar high in life and becoming the person one wants to be.

“I wanna tear down boundaries. I wanna greet my enemies. I wanna see what I haven’t seen, ‘cause I know there’s more.”

The chant of children carries the anthemic “Mama Said,”  inspired by Annie’s “Hard Knock Life.” As Forchhammer sings proudly of his hometown, the pulsating beat of drummer Mark Falgren induces involuntary foot tapping. Plus, Forchhammer’s high vibrato towards the end of the song is mesmerizing, showing listeners how truly impressive his vocal range is.

Composed for Forchhammer’s brother, who is serving time behind bars, the touching “Better Than Yourself” is a beautiful follow-up to the band’s previously-released track “Criminal Mind.” Daugaard samples the piano from Beethoven’s famous “Moonlight Sonata,” creating a gentle atmosphere as Forchhammer comforts his brother through song. “I hope you know you’re not alone in that hell,” Forchhammer cries out in the haunting chorus.

Bassist Magnus Larsson shines in the upbeat “Don’t You Worry ‘Bout Me,” laying the foundation for the rest of the group as layers of church organs, pianos and even a tambourine fill out the track. Forchhammer assures his loved ones that he’ll be perfectly fine on his own in the real world. It is those same organs that drive the peaceful “What Happened To Perfect,” where synthetic strings and a basic yet effective drum beat create melancholic vibes.

Ending the record on another soft note, the gospel-infused “Funeral” paints an aural image of a memorial service for Forchhammer. A distant church bell and bluesy piano lick ignites the spark. Soon after, the rest of the gang joins in as Forchhammer attempts to reach out to the hypothetical attendees of his funeral, assuring them not to mourn, for he has positively come to terms with his death.

“Everyone I know better be wasted,” he sings. “You know I would pour one up, ‘cause the way I lived, it was amazing.” The band, with the addition of a choir, takes the dreary concept of death and flips it around to be an optimistic closer to the album, just as one gains closure from saying goodbye to a loved one.

Lukas Graham has the soul needed in modern pop music. The Danish quartet takes the best of R&B and embellishes it. Whether it be the spontaneous keyboards, the rich percussion section or the vocals of a frontman that could make anyone envious, there is enough emotion in the band’s debut release to steal the hearts of millions, not to mention a Grammy or two.