Indie pop-rock outfit Ex Norwegian broke onto the scene in 2008 with the sun-drenched, effortlessly hummable Something Unreal. Despite various obstacles, including a six-month disbandment and numerous line-up modifications, the Miami-based ensemble, led by Roger Houdaille, has persevered with their refreshing brand of quirky, infectious and multifarious pop, releasing four albums along the way. The release of their fifth studio album Wasted Lines introduces us to the newest addition to the group, singer Lucia Perez, and is replete with tracks as memorable as their first single.
The fact that Perez is a very recent addition to Ex Norwegian seems redundant from the album’s outset. She opens Wasted Lines with the confidence and synergy of a childhood friend. CheepCheep is a magnetic track, whose 1960s doo-wop charm is interrupted intermittently by hard-hitting, gravelly guitar breaks, introducing us to that quintessential amalgam of sonic influences that makes Ex Norwegian so appealing. Be There continues in a similar vein, switching between a breezy beach sound and 90s grunge, which culminates in effective and self-assured power pop. The initially shadowy chorus is later joined by a funky guitar riff, subtly altering its accompanying harmony; the re-harmonisation of the hook the second time we hear it is a nuance characteristic of Houdaille’s song-writing.
Much Rooms and Unstoppable explore a psychedelic, guitar-heavy sound. Complete with background chorus, delayed vocals and lo-fi, edgy production, the tracks symbolise an adventurous departure from Ex Norwegian’s earlier, more polished sounds. While the buoyant, glittery guitar chords played over a minor scalic passage at All The Time’s beginning embody the band’s multifaceted approach to pop music. This play between minor and major is accompanied by a beautiful collaboration between Perez and Houdaille’s voices. The exciting modal song writing continues with It’s Too Late. One of the album’s standout tracks, it uses harmonic structures uncommon in pop music that are quirky while still remaining completely accessible. Love Is closes the album with a beautiful chorus that underpins Perez’s voice, which turns out to be the perfect fit for the ensemble.
Wasted Lines is full of simple, effective rock hooks and endearing pop sensibility, framed with unexpected harmonic alternatives, and an exploration into edgier production choices. There’s a real likability that derives from their wide range of influences, an eclectic mix of power pop, rock and roll, psychedelic and 1960s blue-eyed doo-wop, and no holds barred creativity.