Licking Fingers, 2009

When Gothenburg’s Sarah Assbring launched her project El Perro del Mar back in 2003 it was about creating music on her own terms. Without a band to compromise with it was all her own thoughts and ideas. Sometimes however working with another can bring out your best and after several discussions  it was finally deemed the right time for Sarah and Rasmus Hägg, one half of Studio, to put their heads together. The result is the heartbreaking seven track mini-album Love Is Not Pop.

Love Is Not Pop is not to distant from El Perro Del Mar’s previous work, the album is filled to the brim with emotions mixed with light melodies and a certain amount of tweeness. While From the Valley to the Stars was shaped by the loss of a close relative and Sarah’s thoughts on death and life, Love Is Not Pop is the result of a break up. Just like many artists have done before, Sarah dealt with the end of a relationship by writing, using music as therapy.

“Gotta Get Smart”, supposedly the first song written and sent by Sarah to her boyfriend while she was in New York working, frames the album and sets the mood with the six little words everyone is dreading to hear, “I’ve got something to tell you…”. The theme of the album is that love, clichéd as it might sound, hurts. It never gets corny though, there isn’t a Celine Dion feel to it. Sarah instead brings out the dark side to love, the pain of leaving or being left by someone that you still care for, without getting mushy.

While Love Is Not Pop continues El Perro Del Mar’s soft, girly soul-pop the collaboration with Rasmus has added extra depth. Rasmus insisted on having live guitar and real drums instead of a drum machine, although here and there you can also hear beats familiar to those of Studio, especially in the gorgeous “Change of Heart” or the scaled down cover of Lou Reed’s “Heavenly Arms”.

The phrase “love is not pop” is lifted from The Last Tango in Paris, a movie that focused on the complexity of love, loss and sexuality. While love is complicated pop can be so straightforward. There is no mistaking what Sarah wants to say with her third album and while the outcome is slightly disheartening but you can’t help but listen to it, over and over. Sometime I wish love would be more like pop.