Reviewed by Johan Palme on 4th December, 2015
One of the most wonderful things about Christmas music is how it can turn expectations on end. How the values you normally treasure in music can be switched around, jostled in your mind, until you question why they were there in the first place. And it goes the other way, too. Just like listeners can step out of their comfort zones, so can artists. The joyous stream of possibilities Christmas music traditions offer gives them new creative imput, pushing their artistry into unexpected directions.
Take, for instance, Swedish musical theatre tenor Peter Jöback. His image, outside of Christmas music, is geared towards belted, overblown ballads, middling easy listening pop or cheesy, one-dimensional crooning. But on his Christmas record, he’s measured, sensitive, and emtionally sincere. Jag Kommer Hem Igen Till Jul (“I’ll be home again for Christmas”) is a little masterpiece of restraint, melancholic sorrow, personal lyrics, and – if such a thing is relevant – good taste. Mixing earnest traditionals and genuinly engaging new songs, it’s greatly unlike anything he’s done before or since.
That the record company put the production into the competent hands of the highly credible Lars Halapi is certainly a significant part of the puzzle, his spacey, acoustic productions really complementing Jöback’s voice. And they’ve drafted in the cream of Swedish pop royalty to help write the songs. Mauro Scocco is here. So’s Roxette’s Per Gessle, Thomas Anderson Wij (who’s transformed Dylan’s “I believe in you” into an inpired Jesus paean), and Niclas Frisk/Andreas Mattsson on the genuinely uplifting title track.
But somehow, Peter Jöback himself also grows with the task. You get a sense that this record is him being what he’s had potential to be, all along. And that, perhaps, is the greatest thing a record can ever hope to achieve.
The version of this album on iTunes and Amazon is the “Tenth anniversary edition” which as is common with special editions messes wih the integrity of the album. Skip track six and the last four tracks and you’re back to the right format.