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Efterklang: Magic Chairs (4AD) 

If Denmark exists primarily in the imagination of Hamlet's "unweeded garden" of "things rank and gross in nature," or as the backdrop for Lars von Trier's faux-disabled orgies, then Efterklang is here to put a shiny veneer over those dark currents.

Their latest—and first for 4AD Records—Magic Chairs mixes the expansive orchestrations of their earlier work with the indie-pop sensibilities of the day. The results are mixed; while inarguably pretty, Magic Chairs never really aspires to anything. It's got fey choirboy vocals, syncopated drumming, glittery string ensembles and electro-sputtering aplenty. But no gravitas.

"Scandinavian Love" recalls the mid-'90s synth-pop lounge of Stereolab. "Mirror Mirror" gets a little Fleet Foxey, but raucous. "Full Moon" rethinks '80s arty pop like Talk Talk into spiderwebby atmospherics. The album's opener, "Modern Drift," adds a dash of New Romanticism to what's otherwise overly croony and obvious. For "I Was Playing Drums," a throaty post-punk bass plays bandleader to frenetic strings and tinkling glissandos.

Though Magic Chairs is all dressed up in delicacy and prettiness, it still has a dourness to it. Think "haunted fairyland" or "sad boy illustrates children's book; tots in tears."

Efterklang has produced a craftsman-like third album, which is in and of itself a fine feat. For indie-pop completists, this will serve as good background music for a future Sunday brunch on a sunny garden patio. Mimosas, crêpes, espresso and Danes with your danishes. Fun will be had by all, but no one will ask, "What's this that's playing?"

More by Sean Bottai

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