As the first song on Frida Sundemo’s Flashbacks & Futures gets underway, it builds bright beats and crisp energy that remain present throughout the rest of the album. The track also lays groundwork for an album that, overall, strikes a successful balance between galactic club anthems and cyborg siren songs.
Sundemo is the Swedish musician who has garnered attention in the past few years for a Japan-only release, Dear, Let It Out, as well as a handful of singles released internationally. However, Flashbacks & Futures marks her international debut and feels like a tour de force from the young artist.
Sparse and sincere, the album is full of breathy electronic vocals mixed with club anthem-worthy beats at times; sparse strings and piano at other times. Sundemo’s vocals, in collaboration with fellow Swede Loney, Dear on “Violent” as well as other answering vocals added here and there on tracks like “Islands,” are precious and echoing thanks, in part, to denotative, mantra-like lyrics as well as heavy vocoder use throughout. The result is an album of singer-songwriter songs recorded by cyborgs who go clubbing on the weekends.
Crystalline-feeling at times, each song relies on a relatively fixed instrumentation of—with some exceptions—Sundemo’s vocals, electronic beats and orchestral-sounding synthesizers. These are put to use on Flashbacks & Futures to create songs that are sharply beautiful but sound so remote at times that they are more like daily affirmations of humanity made into the mirror by a lonely robot on a planet far away than a soundtrack for human ears. Sundemo’s lyrics often support this sense as well. Case in point: on the song “To The End and Back,” Sundemo incants, “Blood is rushing through my veins, it’s keeping me alive;” on “It’s OK” she repeats, “This is what it feels like to be alive.” For human listeners, these are obvious facts; for cyborgs, these are beliefs that are made real with each repeated verse on the album.
Moments of aural thaw and rich humanity come occasionally, such as the plinky piano on “Keep An Eye On Me” and “Astronaut,” or the pounding beats of the title track. It’s the interplay between these moments of warm and cold—personal but distanced meditations on relationships and selves that are captured in Sundemo’s lyrics, glassine instrumentation, and heartbeat-like backing beats—that creates an album that’s impossible to resist revisiting.
The moment you get caught up in one of the more personal songs like “Violent,” there’s a dance anthem like “We Are Dreamers” right around the corner. The give and take here provides a palatable approach to introspection and reflection—as all pop music should—tackling complex and often uncomfortable feelings in a way that makes them all feel more manageable thanks to the catchiness and energy of the medium. And ultimately, this is addictive pop music about isolation and loneliness, feelings that can be understood by cyborgs and humans alike.