Swedish synth duo Vanguard has climbed to the top of my club night playlist with a steady outpouring of energetic singles, including last year’s banger, “Ragnarök,” one of my favorite tracks of the year. They fill a pocket somewhere between traditional synthpop and modern-day futurepop with strong melodies and pulsating, trancy beats.
“Ragnarök” appears on Vanguard’s fifth full-length album, Spectrum, which is finally out today. Vanguard had hoped to release Spectrum, one of the most anticipated synthpop albums of the year, in the spring, but it has been delayed a few months. It follows their previous full-length, Manifest, which was released in 2019.
Spectrum is a furnace blast of energetic beats and dynamic melodies that maintains the pulse-pounding sound of “Ragnarök.” With the exception of the final track, an oddball ballad called “When I Am Gone,” the tempo rarely deviates from a consistent, club-friendly BPM.
Opening track “Open Sky” might mislead listeners into thinking this is the type of cheery, optimistic anthems we’re used to hearing from bands like VNV Nation or Mesh. Atop a bouncy beat, Vanguard sings of “stars shining” and “a new light in the darkness.”
The song’s “brighter future” quickly deteriorates as Spectrum sees Vanguard channeling their anger into pounding dancefloor anthems. Throughout the album, throbbing beats accompany bitter lyrics like “We’ve been fighting for so long, now you’re defeated” and “Thanks for nothing, that’s what I say to you.” This year’s single “Move Out,” another fast-paced electronic anthem, takes aim at older generations: “You stand in our way, a lost generation, a monumental fail. You created history, but the future is ours.” On Spectrum, Vanguard is rarely subtle.
A couple of tracks on Spectrum, including third single “Inside,” adopt vocal distortions out of harsh electro that ramp up the album’s anger.
The songs on Spectrum cover interpersonal relationships and socio-political crises, sometimes in the same song. “Ragnarök,” which uses the great battle in Norse mythology as a metaphor for our present-day global annihilation, comes sandwiched between tracks about a toxic relationship and a shattered one. The duo has a knack for combining Patrik Hansson’s angsty lyrics with the enthusiastic warmth of dynamic electropop—not an easy feat to pull off.