There are bands who take a while to get a handle on their sound, and then there are those who don’t stick to a sound long enough to bother; Nelson Can certainly fall into the latter category, as the shapeshifting Danish trio have never been particularly interested in defining themselves, preferring to take risks and see where they lead. Sure, the powerful vocals of Selina Gin and the chemistry she has with bassist Signe SigneSigne and drummer Maria Juntunen have been the driving force behind the Copenhagen-based band since their inception in 2010, but everything else has been the product of the trio’s restlessly inventive spirit, leading to this: So Long Desire, their second and final album.
Yes, final - they announced their decision to split last week, with the release of the long-gestating follow-up to 2014’s Now is Your Time to Deliver set to be their last act as a band. It finds them in a much different place than they were six years ago, in terms of both lyrical headspace and musical endeavour, showcasing a more polished sound that plants both feet firmly in the electronic pop territory. It’s a strikingly brief listen - barely 25 minutes in length - and its title sets out the tone of the longing lyrical content therein. Letting go of what one loves is a recurring theme throughout, which couldn’t be more suited to where they now find themselves as the sun sets on their decade-long career.
‘Ambitious’ gets the ball rolling, wasting no time in introducing the band’s updated sound while teeing up the icy grandeur of ‘Limelight’ perfectly. “I never had so much to live for that I would have died for it” Gin sings as the song moves from a brooding verse into a sweetly uplifting chorus that is nonetheless tinged with melancholy as SigneSigne’s bass sweeps it along. ‘No Longer Afraid’ shows off their machine-tooled pop precision on one of the record’s most immediate moments, while ‘Madness’ hones in on the key tenets of their sound, a pleasingly minimalistic, unconventional love song that recognises the beauty and pain of romance and holds them in equal esteem.
The album’s title track reinforces the 10-song collection’s central point, that it’s all right to let go of things that no longer serve you. Sometimes you just have to move on, and its thunderous chorus, with its defiant ‘I’m getting over you’ hook, makes an impact, sounding almost joyous even as Gin’s vocals flit between impassioned and aloof. It’s among the highlights on an album that bears no trace of musical excess - instead of expanding their musical palette on their second album, as bands are wont to do, they’ve subverted expectations and done as much as they could with the essentials.
‘I Used to Sleep Through Everything’ is a sumptuous slow jam, while closer ‘Yeah, I Didn’t Think So’ is a fittingly elegiac send-off, bringing the album and the band’s career to a close in a manner that practically drips with yearning, a beautiful denouement that allows Nelson Can to go out on a high. A short and bittersweet listen, So Long Desire draws a line under the previous decade with a flourish, the last testament of a trio who refused to settle and lived for the thrill of making music on their own terms. So long, indeed.