This might be the only review that talks about discovering an album called Neverland without using the title of a 2004 Johnny Depp film in its headline. We could also have mentioned it with a knowing wink if we were to take literally the journey Sportsman (real name Per Magnusson) took in revisiting his past to produce an album of fairy-tale, ethereal sounds to find the magic in memory and nostalgia. Sometimes it takes more effort to avoid the obvious than just go for a lazy, quick win.
To fit in with this ethos, while Sportsman doesn’t really push boundaries with his controlled sound of gentle ambience, the songs rise and fall and play on your subconscious. Delicate, wistful bells with a spoonful of sugar and occasional suggestive strings conjure up a child-like dream world which makes sense considering the subject matter.
“I feel like I’m making this album as a final farewell to my childhood,” Per says, and it succeeds on this count, but the album’s mood invokes more of a child that stays out of the way on the periphery rather than one wanting to be centre of attention.
The soft electronic textures act as a nice background experience and his subtle, unassuming voice does add to the mood but there are moments where the album steps out of the shadows. One of the album highlights, “White Shark” shimmers above the surface for a while with dreamy delays adding to the nostalgic haze. Per describes the song as being based around the idea of wanting something even though it may not be good for you.
There are a couple of male/female dual vocal songs which are a welcome change. His wife Linnea Jönsson (ex Those Dancing Days) adds a gentle backing and the voices compliment each other subtly within the mix. The affected male vocal seems unnecessary on “Baseball”, but the vocals combine better on album high point, “Cheetahs”.
There’s a theme of movement and nature throughout, whether swimming with sharks, running with cheetahs or running on a beach. There’s a carefree innocence evident within the songs and you sense a sense of regret with the ultimate need to move on. It’s clearly a journey with the album taking three years to make and it will be interesting to see the next steps Sportsman takes now he has delved deep into his archives for subject material.
Neverland is released 2 June