Azure Blue - Rule Of Thirds

matcd059  /  December 2011
Azure Blue - Rule Of Thirds
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Azure Blue - Rule Of Thirds

matcd059  /  December 2011
Azure Blue is the new project from Tobias Isaksson, a talented songwriter and colorful profile on the Swedish pop scene. His former bands Irene and Laurel Music were signed to respected Swedish label Labrador Records and attracted worldwide recognition. With Azure Blue, Tobias has made a fresh start and surpassed all his previous work. On the surface, Azure Blue is a sparkling wave that flows relatively unconcerned into a distant sunset, but beneath that it is riddled with references. Together with producer pseudonym Midnight Ruler, Tobias has created a modern yet timeless record with analog drum machines, vintage synths, and airy arrangements. ‘Rule of Thirds’ shamelessly flirts with AOR, New Wave and New Romantic in a way that takes New Order, The Go-Betweens, and Roxy Music's ‘Avalon’ album on a journey to 2012. While lyrically the album is a vortex of references ranging from favorite movies to records to the literary works of Klas Östergren and Ernest Hemingway, it is mostly a touching autobiographical story that processes three ruptured relationships and an inevitable move from Gothenburg to Stockholm. Album opener ‘Fingers’ is an inspired cover version of a song originally recorded by Grant McLennan of the Go-Betweens and the perfect preview of the hypnotic pop found throughout this record. First single ‘The Catcher In The Rye’ sweeps and soars in all the right places and has one of those memorable choruses that sticks in your head for days. Thanks in part to heavy rotation on Swedish National Radio, the song has enjoyed significant exposure already including strong praise in the music press. ‘Seasons’ is an especially ambitious track mixing rich soaring vocals with strings and keyboards that recall the venerable OMD discography. Second single ‘Little Confusions’ is a shimmering pop song that The Cure would be proud to call their own, while ‘Long Way Down’ is earnest and melodic and ‘Dreamy Eyes’ sounds like an early Depeche Mode classic. As it draws to a close, the album exposes its ties to the contemporary Nordic pop scene with the captivating and hypnotic ‘The Shore’ sounding like the best song the Radio Dept. never wrote, and ‘Two Hearts’ starting off like Swedish band Airliner before reaching a wonderfully catchy conclusion. Final track ‘Chesil Beach’ is a poignant letter to a former flame, with sincere vocals set to another hypnotic pop masterpiece. An elegant, melodic and intelligent album, ‘Rule of Thirds’ is a promising debut for Azure Blue and an extraordinary new release for the Matinée catalog. Watch for select Swedish shows late this year and an international tour in 2012.
  1. Fingers
  2. The Catcher In The Rye
  3. Seasons
  4. Little Confusions
  5. Long Way Down
  6. Dreamy Eyes
  7. The Shore
  8. Two Hearts
  9. Chesil Beach


The name Tobias Isaksson sounded familiar; then I remembered that he plied his trade in a few very good Swedish pop bands: Irene, and Laurel Music (both on the Labrador label). Still, as good as those bands were, he has easily surpassed both with the excellent debut from his new band. The record is all Isaksson with what sounds like an array of vintage synths and an obedient drum machine (and let's not forget producer, Midnight Ruler). To get straight to the point, he has crafted the best electro-pop record in recent memory. Opening with an obscure Grant McLennan cover "Fingers" (off the late Go-Betweens member's Fireboy record), that song perfectly sets the tone. It slowly unfolds and swooshes right into the record's first single, "The Catcher in the Rye," which, with its soaring vibe, could be a "song of the year" candidate for any 12-month span. Later, "Seasons" sounds like prime O.M.D., while "Little Confusions" is more New Order in its economical approach. Of the remaining tracks: "Long Way Down" and "Dreamy Eyes" are both too gooey for words, and the record-ending "Chisel Beach" is a moody, romantic song to a former lover. Honestly, there's not a bad song on here. I'm not sure if Isaksson is on to something else, but he really needs to sit back, relax and enjoy all the gifts (words) that come with a record this good. I have one word: Wow! 9/10   --Blurt
Swedish singer-songwriter Tobias Isaksson's first solo album (after fronting the bands Irene and Laurel Music) manages the neat trick of being suffused in a certain strain of 1980s pop while rarely sounding specifically like any particular artist from that era. Even the opening cover of "Fingers," a song by the late Go-Betweens singer Grant McLennan, is transformed by its wistful, synth-driven arrangement. Isaksson's whispery vocal style and lovelorn lyrics give Rule of Thirds a distinctly intimate and melancholy vibe, but it's not one of those albums that slides by on atmosphere. Tracks like first single "The Catcher in the Rye" and the cyclical, yearning "Long Way Down" have substantial melodies and instantly-memorable hooks. Though Isaksson claims his direct inspiration was Dennis Wilson's cult-favorite solo album Pacific Ocean Blue (which does in fact have a similar feel of downcast, gentle beauty), Rule of Thirds is as likely to appeal to fans of The Magnetic Fields as The Beach Boys.   --Critical Mob
Around the turn of the century, there was a seam of wonderful indiepop coming from a smallish place called England, which our friends from Matinée Recordings mined for us by releasing fine records from Harper Lee, Sportique, the Windmills, the Would-be-Goods and others. Yet centres of gravity shift, as the tectonic plates beneath them grumble and crawl, and a decade or so on it is the ever-fertile pop breeding ground of Scandinavia which provides the label with some of its blue riband artistes. Following the achievements of Northern Portrait, Champagne Riot, Cats on Fire and - not too long ago, but too long ago, if you get me - Electric Pop Group, the latest ensemble to make their Matinée bow are Azure Blue (the new project of Tobias Isaksson, ex-of Irene and Laurel Music). Appropriately enough, "Rule of Thirds" parcels Azure Blue's labours into nine sleek little songs. Grant McLennan cover "Fingers" is an astute choice of opener, immediately placing Azure Blue within a grown-up pop tradition, thus informing appreciation of the rest of the album at the same time as paying due tribute to the late G.W.'s easy way with a song. It's followed by "The Catcher In The Rye", which delivers on many counts (one of which is that you can scrawl it on a compilation tape tracklist straight after former Matinée signing Airport Girl's "Salinger Wrote"), but also that it sets the guitar-pop influences hinted at by "Fingers" alongside Tobias' obvious fetish for synthpop, with a result that will have you dancing up the skirting boards. Indeed, "The Catcher In The Rye" is the first of three standout should-be singles which, for our kroner, illuminate the album with its pearliest dew drops (drops) of palpable pop promise: the others are "Little Confusions", which pots a declaration of unswerving romance into less than three minutes, and the neat, poignant and tart "Two Hearts", an unerringly catchy marriage of synths and strings. Over the album as a whole, Azure Blue switch to more contemplative musical moods too, and manage to flit between sounds as diverse as early OMD, Celestial and Orange Cake Mix, even channelling Albinoni for good measure on a couple of songs, while still finding time for a liberal use of samples to break up the flow a little. It's clear their devotion to synthpop is sincere, and on "Little Confusions" and "Dreamy Eyes" (which comes into its own during its final, instrumental flourish) there's even some Hook-high bass which brings back memories of 80s New Order or the Cure. And "Rule Of Thirds" ends in just the right way, too, with "Chesil Beach" affixing Harper Lee-like melancholy to those swirling synths as it searches, longingly but hopelessly, for an upbeat lyrical coda: instead of Keris looking out across the Channel in "William Blake", this is Tobias standing on the Dorset shingle, watching his memories float away on the English tide. There could be no better way to say goodnight, Irene.   --In Love With These Times In Spite Of These Times
There's a terrible, terrible tendency amongst some pop fans to think that anything that comes out of Scandinavia is immediately to be pounced on and rubbed up against without any kind of rational thinking. It kind of annoys me slightly. Nationality and imaginary borders mean nothing in life, and therefore in pop music. Let me say this: 'Rule of Thirds' is brilliant. It's the kind of electropop album that most often strive to make, but very often fail by trying to be too clever. Tobias Isaksson, who seems to be something of Real Pop Hero in his native Sweden, doesn't have to try too hard. Each of these songs seems to float by in a kind of cosy dreamlike state, never really asking you to think too hard, but always managing to catch your attention. Azure Blue are the musical equivalent of Coronation Street, you might say: comfortable; assured; definitely pleasing; and certain to appeal to 65 year olds from Wigan. That last point might need some work, but you get my drift. It's about ten years since I discovered Matinée Records (or Recordings, if you will). Back then they were putting stuff out by The Windmills and Airport Girl and it was great. Right now they're putting stuff out like Azure Blue and it's still as great. That there is the definition of not only a great group of bands, but a wonderful record label. Long may it continue.   --A Layer of Chips
Azure Blue is the new project from Swede Tobias Isaksson who was formerly a member of the bands Irene and Laurel Music. The pure synth-powered indiepop brilliance of 'The Catcher In The Rye' was initially released earlier in the year but now gets a much deserved new release on Matinée Recordings. This is like the best song that OMD never made crossed with Scandinavian pop genius. Stunning, in other words. Record of the Week.   --The Sound of Confusion
Tobias Isaksson might not have the biggest name recognition here in the United States, but he’s been plying his trade in pop songwriting for some time with his former bands Irene and Laurel Music. His debut record for the excellent Matinée Recordings is titled Rule of Thirds playfully maneuvers back and forth between traditional new wave and modern electro-pop, all the while referencing heartbreak through various allusions. Album opener “Fingers” clearly defines the scope of Rule of Thirds from the get-go, offering a trickling bit of synth work as Isaksson warmly whispers his lyrics of love lost. While the pacing of the track is slow, it provides a precursor to what will follow, establishing a strong foundation for the record’s entirety. Immediately following is one of the standout tracks present here, “Catcher in the Rye.” Musically, the electronic work almost builds to an arm-swinging dance hit, but what’s interesting is the juxtaposed vocal presence, begging you to remain a bit subdued; it becomes more of a genuine pop gem rather than a dance floor banger. For a bit, the album kind of walks this same line, which at times can be to its detriment, being a bit too complacent, but pushing through reveals much more depth waiting on the latter half. One of the tracks that immediately stood out to me on the first several listens was “Long Way Down.” The opening synth sequence was enough to hook me originally, yet it continued to evolve more into a traditional pop song, forcing me to realize that my Azure Blue listening experience may have been all wrong from the start, as it’s more carefully crafted pop tunes that rise above the label of mere synth pop. ”Dreamy Eyes” might completely contradict that little offering, as it’s definitely one of the most upbeat, danceable tracks, but the following track, “The Shore,” is anything but electro-pop. Musically, yes, there’s some electronics here, but the minute details applied to “The Shore” demonstrate that this could easily be transferred into some genius guitar ballad. Tobias seems to carefully consider the way his lyrics are delivered, with pitch and tone harmoniously fitting into the musical background. The more you fall victim to the genius of Rule of Thirds, the more you realize that you could easily replace every bit of electronics with traditional guitar and drums, creating wondrous pop tunes, yet Isaksson as Azure Blue doesn’t seem to be content with normalcy. He’s carefully crafted an album of love lost around intricate electronic details, providing listeners with track after track of gorgeous, melodious songs, the type that will sink deep into your soul the more you listen. For this, amongst other reasons, the record is a huge success and worthy of many hours of your time.   --Austin Town Hall
Anyone who covers a Grant McLennan (of the Go-Betweens fame) song is going to earn bonus points from me and the fact that Tobias Isaksson, the mastermind behind Azure Blue, makes such a fine job of it as the wonderful opener to his new project's debut LP ensures a favourable ear from the outset. As good as his version of 'Fingers'is, it is not the outstanding cut on this nine track album, as he proves himself to be, having already made waves beyond his native Sweden in two previous bands, Irene and Laurel Music an accomplished songwriter in his own right. Musically Azure Blue is very reminiscent of early 1990's Sarah band Blueboy and in particular their excellent 'Unisex' album, but also has a knowing nod towards fellow Scandinavian label mates Cats On Fire. Indeed there is also a hint of A-Ha on 'Long Way Down' as Isaksson weaves a delicate tapestry of electronic music round his semi-crooner type voice that even has the slightest of Morrissey-style inflections. The two singles from the LP, 'The Catcher in the Rye' and 'Little Confusion', are solid dreamy indie-pop songs with only the sometimes too obvious lyrics offering a slight detraction, but it is almost like heaping scorn on your kid brother's crayola drawings to find fault when they are written in someone's second language. The mid-album couplet of 'Dreamy Eyes' and "The Shore' are probably the standout tracks, but in truth there isn't a weak moment to be found. The only criticism that could be levelled is that 'Rule of Thirds' is not a ground-breaking musical adventure, but that suits me fine as the indie-pop template is always a brilliant starting point.   --Pennyblack Magazine
Way back in 2006/7 Swedish band Irene put out a couple of records on Labrador. Both of them were great; short, sharp and full of glossy Scandinavian pop, they were a band hard not to love. Then they kind of disappeared. Well fear not, Irene fans. Tobias Isaksson is back from exile with a new project: Azure Blue. Stepping away from the shimmering indie-pop of previous exploits Azure Blue take those melody heavy Irene vocals and wrap them around a bunch of vintage synth and drum track backing. Think a more optimistic Radio Dept. and you’re somewhere in the right direction. There’s a long playing album in the shape of Rule Of Thirds available now from Matinée Recordings or all your favourite digital music pushers.   --Streetlights As Fairgrounds
Today Sweden’s Hybris label releases Rule of Thirds, the enchanting debut album from Azure Blue, solo project of Stockholm’s Tobias Isaksson. Framing the record as a look back at his life’s three breakups lets Isaksson reminisce lyrically and sonically—singing wistfully about former flames over music nostalgic for the heyday of Factory Records. His touch is tender and light, and the album’s best songs—”The Catcher in the Rye,” “Little Confusions” and “Dreamy Eyes”—always swing to the sky, riding up on decades of learning from drum machines and tangled relationships. I’m sorry that I never took your picture right at the early break of day, he sings on the final track. It’s a hugely romantic record, bathed in feelings of regret but also a certain fullness from having been involved in the first place. But the wave rode on from the breaker to another, my love, he concludes, and it ain’t ever all alone. Next month Matinée releases Rule of Thirds in the US.   --The Fader
Azure Blue, the project of the Stockholm-based musician Tobas Isaksson, released its debut album Rule of Thirds a few weeks ago on November 23 but the full album is still available to stream online, and it’s definitely worth your time – having received very good reviews here in Sweden. Rule of Thirds is being released by the Swedish label Hybris in Scandinavia (with Matinée handling the international release), Hybris being the home to the latest releases from Ja Ja Ja-favourites such as Korallreven and Big Fox, the album should please fans of excellent Scandinavian pop.   --Ja Ja Ja Music
Performing as Azure Blue, Tobias Isaksson looks back to the 1980s for much of his sound on his new release Rule of Thirds, and he considers three romantic break-ups as his lyrical inspiration. That doesn’t mean he’s just a nostalgia act, though, as his electro-pop takes its own turns and his emotional reflections reveal a certain amount of mature distance.   --Pop Matters
Azure Blue’s debut album, Rule of Thirds may be one of my favorite records at the current moment, due to its dream pop qualities that stand out from the barrage of singer songwriter/rock albums that have been released within the past few months. Azure Blue, alias for Tobias Isaksson, is not new to the music scene–with previous bands like Irene and Laurel Music he became famous within the blogsphere. However, this album is pure pop at its finest, without being overdramatic and sappy, the single “The Catcher in the Rye” is quite a lovely homage to a novel that is so dearly loved. Isaksson says of the album, “Along with other male storytellers like Ernest Hemingway, Klas Ostergren, and Grant McLennan. I wanted to make a mature AOR record but ended up flirting with new wave and new romantics as well”. His description of his own record makes complete sense, there is a romantic sense to the whole album that doesn’t kill your sense of sanity (like those sappy Channing Tatum movies do). But what this record does most for me is the sense of being on a beach somewhere, reading a book and escaping life for a day (or 33.4 minutes). And that’s one of the most important aspects of an album for me, is the feeling of being able to escape whatever I’m doing and be projected into how the album makes me feel. For those who love the dreamy pop of Detroyer’s last album, Kaputt and love the wittiness of Jens Lekman’s lyrics, check out this album, and there will be no disappointment whatsoever.   --The Most Indietastic
La escena indiepop ha estado siempre expuesta a discutibles acusaciones de ensimismamiento, integrismo e inmovilismo nostálgico. Es cierto que pocas cosas han cambiado tan poco en los últimos 25 años. Sus referentes estéticos continúan inamovibles: supremacía de la melodía, una cierta cursilería en sus letras, sonido ochentero, electrónica de habitación, Sarah Records, The Smiths, The Cure, Lloyd Cole… Pero el desarrollo tecnológico le ha afectado positivamente. Salvo excepciones, Internet dejó atrás el coleccionismo enloquecido y esnob y la importancia suprema del fetiche para dejar más espacio a la música, y las producciones se han beneficiado de forma evidente de los avances en el software sin necesidad de perder su espíritu lo-fi. Otra cosa no ha cambiado: desde mediados de los 90, Escandinavia es el mayor proveedor de alegrías para el género. En un momento en que la audiencia musical se compartimenta más que nunca en nichos estilísticos, la vigencia del llamado tweepop (literalmente, pop cursi) está garantizada gracias a la cabezonería de sellos históricos como Labrador y de otros más jóvenes como Hybris, disquera editora del debut como Azure Blue del sueco Tobias Isaksson, miembro de los discretamente reconocidos Irene. No hay nada en Rule of thirds que constituya ni por asomo una novedad desde ningún punto de vista. Ni en su sonido (pop electrónico de autor con un aire dream), ni en el nombre de su proyecto (inspirado en Pacific Ocean Blue de Dennis Wilson), ni en sus manidas referencias temáticas (El guardián entre el centeno, amor peterpanesco, melancolía general), ni en sus homenajes melódicos, algunos tan evidentes como el de Seasons , que clava la melodía de Angeleyes de ABBA, o el de la fantástica Dreamy Eyes, que rememora el clasicazo de Another Sunny Day, You should all be murdered . Lugares comunes a los que el oyente de este hermoso, humilde y por momentos arrebatador debut querrá regresar una y otra vez como si se tratase de la primera experiencia adolescente. Hermoso, humilde y por momentos arrebatador debut.   --El Pais
Ett av 2011 års bästa album kom sent men Azure Blue alias Tobias Eriksson aka Irene släppte en popskiva som jag tog till mitt hjärta vid första lyssningen. Här fanns gott om influenser från det mesta och det bästa av modern pop som hörs idag. Hade det inte varit för det tjusiga omslaget så kanske jag hade missat detta men bilden på Azure Blues skiva bara meddelade att detta bör låta lika bra som det ser ut. Det gjorde det. Verkligen. Rule of Thirds är en av de bästa plattorna som jag hört under 2011. Hoppfull pop, kanske man skulle kunna beskriva det. Hoppfull och lite sommarpopig. Rule of thirds kommer jag återvända till många gånger framöver. Grattis Sverige.   --Centrifug
Per la prima volta solista dopo una ragguardevole carriera come leader di band (Laurel Music e Irene) fondamentali per la scena scandinava, con "Rule Of Thirds" Tobias Isaksson ha costruito il suo capolavoro. Le canzoni di Azure Blue sono un prodigio di complessa semplicità: partendo da una calda, avvolgente e dinamica base di sinth e mettendola in dialogo con chitarre scampanellanti, una ritmica liquida e la propria voce densa e morbida, Isaksson disegna una serie di luminosi orizzonti marini che sembrano altrettanti inni al viaggio, alla libertà, al sogno. E invitano a partire.   --Just Another Pop Song
Échappé de la riche scène pop suédoise, Tobias Isaksson a pourtant trouvé refuge sur le label californien Matinée pour son premier album solo. On est donc plutôt content par la petite surprise qui ouvre cet album, soit une reprise d'un titre tiré de la carrière solo du regretté Grant McLennan des Go-Betweens. Une agréable preuve de bon goût même si malheureusement la version de Tobias fait forcément un peu pâle figure comparée à celle, poignante, que livrait Grant au beau milieu de "Watershed". La barre était haute, et difficile d'en tenir rigueur au Suédois, qui embraie ensuite avec une brillante et prometteuse série de pop songs touchantes et bien troussées, au premier rang desquelles "The Catcher in the Rye", "Long Way Down" ou "The Shore". Bien entendu, avec ses arrangements synthétiques particulièrement soignées et sa voix quelque peu noyée dans la reverb, "Rule of Thirds" ne révolutionne pas un genre de toute façon peu enclin aux chamboulements, mais, sous sa pochette bleu océan, propose une honorable et discrète transposition vers les brumeuses mers nordiques du "Pacific Ocean Blue" de Dennis Wilson, référence lointaine mais avouée du garçon. Charmant.   --Pop News
Qualcuno senz'altro si ricorda gli svedesi Irene della Labrador Records, quelli che hanno definito fantastici germogli estivi in canzoni come 'Stardust', 'September Skies' o ancora 'Little Things (that tear us apart)'. Rilasciarono due album sull'etichetta svedese nel 2006 e 2007 e registrarono un terzo album che alla fine non vide mai la luce. Ecco, qualcuno probabilmente si è chiesto che fine avessero fatto, se si fossero sciolti o avessero preso un periodo di pausa. Be' il gruppo è tutt'ora esistente, ma tutti i membri hanno preso parte a progetti alternativi (Ljungs, Leopold) e molto probabilmente non sarà così facile vederli di nuovo insieme. Il cantante, Tobias Isaksson (che ha anche fatto parte di un'altra band targata Labrador, i Laurel Music) è tornato però quest'anno sulla scena indipendente in un progetto solista chiamato Azure Blue, in cui sperimenta sonorità tanto dedite alla popolazione scandinava (l'utilizzo di ritmi sincopi su tappeti sintetici è ormai peculiare) quanto a lui fin'ora poco consone, in un risultato che non ti aspetteresti. Se Laurel Music era il suono di un primo amore perduto e Irene il sogno impossibile di un'estate infinita di amore, Azure Blue è la notte del giorno dopo, quella dei ricordi. E' la sintesi e la riflessione del futuro in una volta. Rilasciato sulla Hybris e sulla californiana Matinée Records, Rule of Thirds è un disco sfaccettato e probabilmente un'importante punto di incontro tra un'immediato indiepop cantautoriale e un'elettronica effettata da microdettagli tra scie colorate e drum machine. Otto piccole gemme (nove se contiamo anche Fingers, fantastica cover d'apertura del genio Grant McLennan, co-fondatore degli australiani The Go-Betweens) che delineano un caldo tramonto all'orizzonte in qualche glaciale mare antartico. Ed è fra questi tintinnii di ghiaccio che si palesa il singolo The Catcher in the Rye, una profusione di drum machine effetta e adagiata su un morbido strato di synth, una nave che ci accompagnerà per tutta la durata del disco, una nave controllata magistralmente da Tobias, una nave mai invasiva, mai agitata, una nave tenuta sempre sulla stessa rotta, una nave rompighiaccio. Sì perché seppur l'atmosfera possa sembrare fredda e malinconica ad un primo distratto ascolto, al contrario, invece, il synth si dimostra caldo ed avvolgente, come in Seasons, nostalgico pezzo di riflessi luccicosi o Little Confusion in cui le chitarre scampanellanti nuotano fra ritmi sghembi di drum. Acqua cristallina Long Way Down, un inno verso sogni lontani, tra diffusioni corali che talvolta sfociano in rimandi alla chillout o al lounge. La morbida voce di Isaksson inoltre si dimostra ottima per intraprendere questo viaggio, sicura e rodata non pecca mai né quando viene messa più flebile in secondo piano per risaltare la liquidità dei beat, prendete ad esempio Two Hearts, né quando è lei che conduce la rotta, come in Dreamy Eyes. Insomma, il nostro marinaio dimostra magistralmente che talvolta per fare in modo che una nave possa procedere in sicurezza verso l'orizzonte non servono mai equipaggi numerosi, nonostante le acque non siano familiari, tutto quello che serve è prendere e partire, perché talvolta per scoprire nuovi mondi è l'unica cosa che ci resta.   --Rockline
Tiden går fort sägs det. I detta fall är jag absolut beredd att hålla med. Att det har gått nästan ett och ett halvt år sedan jag för första gången fick ta del av vad som kommit att bli Azure Blue, är svårt att tro även om tiden i sig är allt för abstrakt. När jag dessutom fått följa The catcher in the rye, just den låt jag då hörde, från första demo till färdigmastrad singel har det blivit en resa i att både förstå mig själv och att se något jag en gång föll för byta skepnad – till början en upplevelse som inte alls var något positivt. Vad som då började med samplade måsskrik och vågor, bröt sig snart loss från de klassiska göteborgspopreferenserna och växte upp till något annat. Något jag nu, så här efter några månader, börjar förstå, tror jag. Jag har i alla fall förstått att det bästa alternativet inte alltid är att klamra sig fast vid något av vana. När man väl lämnat den alltför bekväma tryggheten bakom sig inser man också, i någon form av eftertänksamhet, att förändringen som studiotid på mer än någon timme givit upphov till, format Tobias Isakssons verk till något större och bättre, vilket också framhäver allt det fina på ett sätt som det inte gjorde tidigare. Det är givetvis något som präglar hela solodebuten, om det så är öppningsspåret Fingers, en tolkning och hyllning till The Go-Betweens Grant McLennan (som gick bort alldeles för tidigit 2006) och hans original, eller om det är Grand Archives-doftande Long way down, medan man som lyssnare blir överöst av varma analoga syntar. Storheten i Rule of Thirds är självfallet inte bara dessa syntar, som till en stor del bygger upp skivans tidlösa popmelodier att drunkna i – ofta tillsammans med ett par New Order-trummor, utan också Isakssons ständigt närvarande sång med berättelser som är både uppriktigt ärliga och utlämnande. Skulle man som lyssnare trots allt få diagnosen nostalgisk, så går det i alla fall att luta sig tillbaka och lyssna på The catcher in the rye, de där vågorna finns fortfarande kvar i bakgrunden och cementerar samtidigt att det alltid är svårt att lämna det gamla bakom sig, på gott och ont. I detta fall: gott.   --Tram 7
On sait pas vous, mais nous on a qu'une envie avec les températures polaires de Paris en ce moment, c'est de se blottir au fond d'une couette et de buller. Et pour ça, rien de telle qu'une petite musique doucerette... On pense avoir ce qu'il vous faut pour ça avec Azure Blue, le projet solo d'un certain Tobias Isaksson. Le nordique a sortis en décembre un album de saison, Rule of Thirds. Venu du Nord, le suédois nous fait partager sa vision de l'océan à grand renfort de murmures, de beats marqués et de nappes de sythé profondes. Le résultat donne une musique aux forts accents Chill-Wave, qui reprend les codes et les valeurs du surf rock. Au final ça donne un son à mi-chemin entre la gaieté naïve et la nostalgie. Alors on enfile ses chaussettes et on fait de beaux rêves...   --Vocododo
Azure Blue es el nuevo grupo de Tobias Isaksson antiguo miembro de Irene que acaba de debutar en el maravilloso sello Matinée con "Rule Of Thirds" un precioso disco que recupera la electrónica de los ochenta (recuerda por momentos a OMD y también a Bryan Ferry) y que se olvida, en esta ocasión, de las divertidas y contagiosas melodías del tan admirado pop sueco. "The Catcher in the Rye", "Seasons", "Little Confusions" y el resto de canciones, hasta llegar a nueve, sorprenden por su extrema elegancia y delicadeza.   --Avec La Participation De
‘Fingers’, el primer corte de ‘Rule of Thirds’, comienza justo en el momento en el que la pantalla se funde en negro y empiezan a aparecer los títulos de crédito de la película. Esa especie de nostalgia por algo que no sabes muy bien lo que es impregna esta y el resto de canciones que componen el disco de debut de Azure Blue, del mismo modo que lo hicieron esas melodías que te acompañaron, de puntillas, a lo largo de esos años que no volverán. Azure Blue no es otro que Tobias Isaksson. Y este no es otro que “Bobby”, el que fuera uno de los principales integrantes primero de Laurel Music y luego de Irene. Debido a cambios de residencia de sus miembros, la banda se ha tomado un descanso indefinido y, mientras una buena parte de sus componentes está tocando junto a Joel Alme, Tobias ha decidido iniciar su carrera en solitario con un disco de pop electrónico, melancólico y con claras referencias a esos sonidos perdidos en algún rincón de su adolescencia. En plena fiebre del acercamiento hipnagógico y un pelín postmoderno hacia los sonidos (bueno, y a sus difuminados recuerdos) del pop comercial de hace 30 años, las canciones de Azure Blue destacan por su sinceridad total. Lejos de abarcarlos desde un punto de vista intelectual -y sin la más mínima ironía-, Tobias Isaksson parece más interesado en utilizarlos como el envoltorio más adecuado para unas composiciones tan delicadas como sentimentales que, si bien podrían estar a las puertas de lo cursi, acaban entrando en lo decididamente valiente. De esa manera, ‘Rule of Thirds’ bebe tanto de las diferentes vertientes del synthpop más moderado (los dos primeros singles ‘The Catcher in the Rye’ y ‘Little Confusions’) como de esa actitud neorromántica entre solemne y decadente (en el que será tercer single ‘Seasons’ o el citado ‘Fingers’). En ese sentido, no está muy lejos de lo que pretendieron OMD a partir del ‘Architecture & Morality’ (‘Two Hearts’) o, en un contexto completamente diferente, de unos Family más ambientales (‘Long Way Down’). Un álbum no solo disfrutable como un evocador conjunto, sino como una colección de canciones inspiradas y con una personalidad propia que les dejan, cuanto menos, a un paso de transcender el género. Un género que puede que se adapte al tipo de composiciones de Tobias Isaksson incluso mejor que sus anteriores grupos, por lo que no es descartable que lo mejor esté todavía por llegar.   --Je Ne Sais Pop
Sven¬skerne har så ofte vist at de er mestre ud i god pop, og Azure Blue, et solo pro¬ject fra Tobias Isaks¬son, er endnu et eksem¬pel på en sven¬sker, der ram¬mer alle de rig¬tige tangenter. Nav¬net Azure Blue er en par¬af¬rase af Den¬nis Wilson’s “Paci¬fic Ocean Blue”. Som nav¬net anty¬der er vi ude i nogle toner der, hvis du luk¬ker øjnene, trans¬por¬te¬rer dig til en hvid strand under varme him-mel¬strøg. San¬ge¬nes tek¬ster er des¬u¬den roman¬ti¬ske som ind i helvede. Der er ikke rig¬tig nogle høj¬de¬punk¬ter på pla¬den — kva¬li¬te¬ten er nem¬lig mere eller min¬dre høj over hele linjen.   --Musik Mig Blidt
No es que se hayan dormido en los laureles, es que Hybris, si tardaba, era porque estaba planeando algo bueno. Quizás otro de los discos del año pasado (no son tantos) para el escribiente, al menos en estos géneros más próximos al indiepop. Una vuelta al arranque carbonando las máquinas desde las que activar el engranaje para un nuevo trabajo de Jonathan Johansson, el largo de Korallreven (comentado próximamente en sus pantallas), el álbum homónimo de Big Fox y este magnífico debut de Azure Blue en una posición aural más allá de la regla de los tercios. Así es como Tobias Isaksson, también miembro del gran ensemble que forman Irene y los que fueran Laurel Music, hace ya alguna caída de hoja que otra, regresa para expresar, quizás, lo mejor que ha escrito hasta la actualidad. Rule of Thirds no es sólo un fantástico esfuerzo de indiepop escandinavo con el siempre nostálgico eco de los comienzos de Creation, Factory, Les Disques du Crépuscule y otras añoranzas del primer synthpop, sino que es una exégesis lúcida y contemporánea de Pacific Ocean Blue, ese magnífico disco de Dennis Wilson (el batería de Beach Boys, para el que no recuerde). Y es, además, su pequeña cantata indiemecánica al azul del mar que inspira el romanticismo de los cortes que aquí incluye. Lógico, entonces, que reitere esa idea de Azure Blue, ya sólo en el nombre, que tanto más tiene que decir en la polisemia anglosajona del segundo adjetivo, pues aquí también hay anhelo, lágrima y melancolía cerúlea, además de honestas, tan clásicas que son modernas, inmediatas y espléndidas canciones pop. Rule of Thirds, que también edita Matinée desde el otro lado del charco tributado, destaca por su carácter atemporal, por la transparencia turquesa de melodías y letras y una constante taciturna, aunque limpiamente cubierta por una maquinaria upbeat, que conquista cada rincón plata del disco. Se compone de nueve canciones que se basan en la estructura clásica del indiepop canónico y de los primeros ejercicios del synthpop melancólico. Disoluciones encantadoras de pop en forma de aguanieve. De Pacific (los de Creation, claro) a Orchestral Maneouvres In The Dark, Isaksson deja el sol de las lateralidades del pop de los sesenta que tanto trabajase entonces para inclinarse por un sonido dominado por las cajas de ritmo y los efectos sintéticos y electrónicos, un twindiepop escarchado, los sintetizadores y teclados de armonías y de sonidos más pop, los bajos envolventes herederos de una suave cold wave, y la trepidación rítmica que se arrulla en un regocijo espumoso. Muchas veces semejante al sonido de Carl Orlsson (o Paddington Distortion Combo, del que más de una vez he hablado y el que, por cierto, ha publicado también recientemente United en el sello alemán Save The CD-R), pero de intenciones evidentemente más consumibles; cerca también de Erik Halldén, The Field Mice, Little Name, Vitesse, mi fetiche Hormones in Abundance, los comienzos de The Magnetic Fields o al de los noruegos Kawaii; Azure Blue se presenta con una ópera prima virtuosa entre el rumor añil del indiepop onírico y cavilante de Sarah Records o Shinkansen y la intendencia gélida del azur de la new wave de la nueva ola belga. En un registro sentimental y de constante arrobo en el que el de Estocolmo, haciendo gala de esa fagocitación nórdica que tanto enaltece el pop níveo, se orienta en lamentos y esperanzas cantadas para el recogimiento del índigo pop y el timbre trémolo de armonías sensibles. Cristalino, claro y meridiano.   --Notodo
Ahora que hemos tocado el regreso de "The Mary Onettes", creo es momento de postear una banda que celosamente guardaba. "Azure Blue" es relativamante un nuevo grupo que acaba de debutar en el Sello "Martineé" con su álbum "Rule Of Thirds". Este maravilloso disco recupera parte de los 80's con sonidos electronicos, fuertes sintetizadores y los sonidos melancólicos. Azure Blue, es el proyecto de "Tobias Isaksson" ex integrante de la muy conocida banda Sueca "Irene" y "laurel Music"(Labrador Records). El Pop nórdico y su inmensa grandeza es lo que se puede escuchar en estos 9 temas que componen el disco. Sientan las influencias ochenteras de grandes como "Robert Smith", "OMD" y "Echo and the Bunnymen".... Esto si es un regalo para todo melómano, Enjoy.   --Pirate Indie
Cuando parece que el año ya no da mucho más de sí en cuanto a novedades musicales, siempre aparece un disco a última hora que se coloca entre los candidatos a figurar entre lo mejor de este 2011. Tal es el caso de Azure Blue con este "Rule Of Thirds", proyecto en solitario del sueco Tobias Isaksson, conocido por su participación en bandas como Laurel Music e Irene, quien nos obsequia aquí con una magnifica colección de canciones pop de corte clásico. El disco se ha editado esta misma semana en Suecia a través del sello Hybris y Matinée Recordings lo publicará en unas semanas para el resto del mundo.   --Stereo Pills