Isabel Guzman first came to my attention last year when Robpop championed "Love Song" on the inimitable Don't Stop The Pop. I'm usually pretty immune to Swedish pop music but one listen to that magnificent tune was all I needed to jump aboard Isabel's already crowded bandwagon! "Love Song" was one of the true gems of 2007 and it's follow-up, "Wrapped Up In Plastic", was an even more delectable pop treat. I've been eagerly awaiting new material from Ms Guzman ever since, so it's a bit of an understatement to say that I jumped at the chance to review her new EP. "Kill The Boy" is a cracking 5 track introduction to Isabel's hugely original take on pop music. Pop Justice is calling it the "EP of the year" but don't let that put you off. Unlike most of the music they hype, Isabel is actually quite good and "Kill The Boy" more than cements her place as the Swedish diva to watch in 2008. Here's my track by track review:
Mysterious - 8.5/10
It's clear from the very first song that Isabel's sound has evolved considerably over the past year. The exquisite mid-tempo electro-pop of her breakthrough material has given way to a sleek dance sound. "Mysterious" is an expertly judged club anthem with enough crossover pop appeal for mainstream radio. I love the way the first verse is built around "My Sharona" and Isabel's knack for quirky lyrics is still very much apparent. Rhyming "heroin" with "Mickey Finn" is a particularly classy touch! This is dance-pop of the highest calibre.
Kill The Boy - 10/10
The title track is favourite cut on the EP by quite a margin. I've been playing "Kill The Boy" on repeat for the past couple of weeks and I still can't get enough of it. The song mines the same melancholy vein of pop gold as "Love Song" and "Wrapped Up In Plastic", which I firmly believe is Isabel's niche. I can imagine Robyn or September singing something like "Mysterious" but I think the bittersweet subtlety of "Kill The Boy" is beyond either of them. The wonderfully literate lyrics are imbued with a remarkable softness by Isabel's sweet voice, while the mid-tempo electro beats are calibrated with military precision. The verse beginning "when the world is cold as ice" could be my favourite pop moment of 2008 thus far. Fingers crossed this gem appears on Isabel's forthcoming debut album.
And The Beat Goes - 5/10
I'm all for Isabel displaying her versatility but the forced craziness of "And The Beat Goes" sounds very derivative to my ears. The use of trumpet and trombone is a quirky touch but "And The Beat Goes" wouldn't sound out of place on Britney's latest album and I don't mean that as a compliment. In fact, many a diva has wandered down this well worn path before - a fairly tired call to the dancefloor. Counting over the beat in Spanish doesn't make it inventive either, just slightly more embarrassing that it already was. Entirely forgettable.
Love Song (Acoustic Version) - 7/10
The original version of "Love Song" is a modern pop classic but this acoustic version is a bit too lifeless for my liking. Isabel's voice is sublime but did she record this in the subway? The background noise is louder than the guitar! Pleasant but the original version would have been vastly preferable.
Mysterious (Attie-Tude Remix) - 8/10
A fabulous dance remix that would set any club on fire. I can only imagine what kind of magic a cutting edge DJ could work on quality material like this.
"Kill The Boy" is released in Sweden on the 14th of May. European readers can order it through CDON. Unfortunately they don't ship to Australia. Hopefully, it wont be long until Isabel is snapped up by a major label and gets an international distribution deal. If she keeps on churning out gems like this, it can only be a matter of time. For more details check out Isabel's Myspace and website.