Album Review: Roxette – Good Karma
Roxette have been keeping us on the edge of our seats for a couple of years now in terms of releasing new material from the studio. While the band have recently hung up their touring hats, following the decline in front-woman Marie Fredriksson’s health, the arrival of new album Good Karma, the bands first studio album since 2012’s Tourism sister, Traveling, is a welcomed one.
The record is the bands 10 studio album and celebrates 30 years from the release of their debut album, Pearls of Passion. Another reason for celebrating the arrival of Good Karma is simply the fact that the record showcases a band whose output remains as strong as cohesive and as relevant as any one of their previous records. Always pushing their sound into new territory while retaining that signature pop vein that makes Roxette records, well, distinctively Roxette; Good Karma is a truly exceptional collection from one of the finest musical acts in pop music.
To the casual listener of the bands material over the years, particularly those who are only really familiar with the bands 80’s and 90’s peak material – The Look, Joyride, Fading Like A Flower, Listen To Your Heart, It Must Have Been Love etc, Good Karma will contain more surprises than to those more avid followers of the band. Per Gessle; the songwriting mastermind behind the songs and the voice of many of the bands past and current hits, has edged Roxette into much more EDM heavy terrain with this record; and its a risk – albeit, not entirely a huge leap given the dance/electro-pop dressing of previous records like Have A Nice Day and Room Service – that has once again paid off for the celebrated hit-maker behind the mammoth Joyriding wheel.
The band selected the perfect track to open our love affair with Good Karma when they chose Why Don’tcha? to crack the lid on the album. Like all of Roxette’s previous studio albums, with the sole exception of 1986’s Pearls of Passion, Per takes the lead on the albums opening number. Combining a swinging sixties arrangement with a bouncy vocal, the introduction to Good Karma is a toe-tapping gem that instantly sets the mood for whats to come.
It Just Happens packs the biggest punch on Good Karma. The track, along with its sentimental video, continues to front the record as its lead single and is a power-pop, love-letter full of hope, excitement and a blood-pumping synth dressing that begs for you to press the repeat button as the track begins its fade-out. Gessle’s slightly computerized verse vocal against Fredriksson’s powerful chorus’ act as a reminder of why Roxette have remained as successful as they have and remained a mainstay in pop music for 30 years. There is no better song on Good Karma to have oiled the wheels of this phenomenal record than It Just Happens.
There is no doubt that the band have focused on pushing their sound into deeper electronica waters on this record and while the records title track is still knee deep in EDM, fans of the bands rockier material will certainly appreciate this one. Good Karma combines a delicate piano opening, some sweetly sung verses, courtesy of Mrs F, and a bitchin’ chorus that sidesteps right into pure, unadulterated rock terrain. Per delivers a gentle dream sequence near the closing of the track which slots in quite nicely, but this is Fredriksson’s moment to tear the album a new one and she does so with exceptional precision and strength.
The 80’s club scene is alive and kicking on This One. Bassy beats, layered synths, spacey effects and an infectious chorus create a synth-oozing toe-tapping sing-along with all the qualities of a potential single somewhere down the line. This is a really fun inclusion for Good Karma and would have been a pretty epic track to hear live.
After a near minute long intro provided by a haunting and pulsating synth, we are introduced to You Make It Sound So Simple; one of 3 tracks co-produced by Swedish production duo, Addeboy vs Cliff, who recently worked with Roxette on the duos The Look remake in 2015 and who have painted the middle of the record with their high-octane electro expertise. Per sings this track slightly differently to his other vocal contributions on Good Karma and pairs his voice with a robotic layering. Its computerized quality gives the track a futuristic feel which is magnified by the grinding production of the track and sweetened by Fredriksson’s sugary vocals on the tracks chorus.
Outside of lead single It Just Happens, our current favorite on Good Karma would have to be From A Distance. Fredriksson’s crisp vocals on the track are entrancing as she sings about being broken but appearing to be OK on the outside; “I won’t reveal any signs, everything looks perfectly fine, from a distance” Fredriksson sings as she delivers one of the best vocal numbers on Good Karma. The track easily joins the ranks of songs like A Thing About You, Speak To Me and Milk and Toast and Honey as one of the bands most well-crafted and heart wrenching numbers from the latter half of the bands career so far. This is serious goose-bump-inducing stuff and joins hands with It Just Happens as the centerpiece of Good Karma.
The production on Good Karma is one of the finest features about this new collection. Much like the release of It Just Happens, each listen pulls out something new or previously hidden. While this could have resulted in a cluttered collection, the band have applied care to the placement of instruments, ad-lib’s and other elements and so each track unravels with a vigorous consistency as opposed to feeling out of place or messy.
Rumoured as the 2nd single from Good Karma, Some Other Summer was initially released by French DJ Sebastien Drums but Roxette have decided to include the track on the new record. The original single from Drums didn’t get a whole lot of attention so hopefully the choice to not only include the track on Good Karma but to also potentially release the number as the second single from the record will give Some Other Summer the attention it deserved the first time around. Soaked in a cool summer vibe and a beat that just makes you want to dance, Some Other Summer is the perfect follow up to It Just Happens and a track that will be a popular radio hit for the approaching European sunny season if the rumours are true.
With the majority of the record being delivered vocally by Gessle, Marie’s contributions shine brightly as she brings the house down with some exquisite power ballads. Why Don’t You Bring Me Flowers is one of those gems to be found here on Good Karma. With a beautiful piano arrangement providing the foundation of the track and a subtle string section flowing throughout, Fredriksson’s heartfelt delivery of this one is sublime.
Like the majority of Good Karma, You Can’t Do This To Me Anymore is a busy yet craftily uncluttered number with a tinkering piano frolicking in the background to the vocals which are shared between Gessle on verses and Fredriksson on the swaying chorus’. The track carries a distinctively Pet Shop Boys-esque vibe within its spoken work verses which sound familiar in delivery to the Brit duo’s West End Girls hit. The track has a quirky, Nile Rodgers-esque bass line plugged into the 2.30min mark that perfectly interjects the defiant Fredriksson chorus’.
If there was a stadium anthem within Good Karma – 20 BPM would be crowned the winner. The grinding synth backbone of this track reverberates around Gessle’s precise, though overly computerized, vocal. Probably the best way to sum up this late addition to the tracklisting is that it is a sexy number. The track is all about having fun and enjoying the cheeky and quirky side of Roxette. It’s the Make My Head Go Pop (from 2001’s Room Service) of Good Karma – pure, unadulterated fun from start to end.
Much like many of the bands previous studio albums including Joyride (Perfect Day), Have A Nice Day (Beautiful Things) and Room Service (My World, My Love My Life), Good Karma is closed off in spectacular Fredriksson-delivered power-ballad fashion with the somber yet encouraging April Clouds. “I close my eyes, and I felt blessed, I wish you the best” Fredriksson sings as her voice reveals a longing and heartache through every note offered. Its heartbreaking. Its melancholic. Its an exquisitely delivered masterpiece to cap off Good Karma.
Good Karma is yet another stellar effort from the adored Swedish pop duo that contains some of their finest work of their later career. Its testament to the bands songwriting, vocal, production and instrumental talents and is further evidence that the hit well is very, very far from running dry. We tip our hat to you once again Marie and Per!