Shout Out Louds has long been among my favorite bands thanks to catchy songs with production that wears its 1980s pop influences proudly on its sleeve. Back in December, the Swedish indie band announced its fourth album, Optica (out Feb. 26 via Merge Records), and offered up a first taste with the lush single "Blue Ice." The song is a lovely and relatively contained musically, with tight simple piano melodies and swoony violins and the gentle pulse of some vintage analog keyboards and programmed drums. It was a downright pretty synthy ballad, but perhaps lacked the instantly fun lilt of what I've come to expect from Shout Out Louds.
Now, we are getting another preview, with the buoyant track, "Illusions." The song -- the second track on Optica -- not only is it one of the most infectiously joyous the band has put out in some time, it also showcases what Shout Out Louds does best: Making songs equally spirited and self-reflective.
Amidst a dance-friendly disco-y groove, some crisp guitar playing and plenty of vocal interplay, "Illusions" seems to split the difference between the band's earlier energetic "In Between Days"-infused sound and the sleeker, sexier electronic synth pop direction the band went in on its previous album Work. And lyrically, the song delivers a memorable chorus that teases out a delicate balance between past heartache and the promise of new love: "A heart is what a heart is / It won't forget where it came from / And when I walk down the line / I'm walking with you," Adam Olenius and Bebban Stenborg repeatedly croon.
Like the best pop songs, "Illusions" masks this thoughtful sentiment with enough singable hooks to give the song with a rejuvenating spark, and it's easy to envision this enlivening a crowd at a show.