2018 – Burning Bodies LP (PNKSLM047) – Listen/buy
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After thirteen years at the heart of Stockholm’s garage scene, Henrik Appel is finally going it alone. Since moving to the Swedish capital at the age of twenty, he’s established himself as one of the key figures in the city’s indie rock underground; after starting out playing bass in the punk outfit Kilroy, he met the similarly prolific Martin Savage and joined his band, Martin Savage Gang, handling bass and backing vocals as the group toured across Europe and the United States. Working with Savage inspired Appel to step out front and centre himself, and in the summer of 2016, his new three-piece Lion’s Den released their self-titled debut album, one that had Appel on lead vocals and guitar and on which he penned the lyrics himself.
Lion’s Den continued in the Appel tradition of tightly-wound guitars and sharp melodies, with a quickfire running time and lyrics that reflected on the world around him. All the while, though, he was working on something that would mark a break away from the musical identity he’s spent over a decade cultivating. Burning Bodies is Appel’s first solo album, pieced together over the course of five years and consisting primarily of love songs that pertain both to relationships and friendships. His normally boundless energy has been dialled back, and the production and instrumentation are lo-fi; he wanted this to be a slower, more deliberate album than we’re used to from him.
He references a diverse range of influences on this particular set of songs; Nico’s Chelsea Girl was one, an album he’s cherished for years, as well as Karen Dalton’s 1966 and the work of Daniel Johnston and Bob Dylan. That doesn’t mean, though, that Burning Bodies is a straightforward singer-songwriter record - far from it. “It could easily have turned out that way,” says Appel, “but I wanted it to be something else. I was listening to a lot of Brian Eno, especially Taking Tiger Mountain (By Strategy), and basing the drums around that kind of thing. I took a lot of inspiration from my friends and their bands, too, especially Growth; they’re a three-piece, and they generate a big sound with little instrumentation. I was trying to do something like that with Burning Bodies, rather than just recording the tracks with my voice and an acoustic guitar.”
Appel cut the album in four days at Studio Cobra in Stockholm, with Martin "Konie" Ehrencrona (Viagra Boys and Les Big Byrd), who produced the Lion’s Den record, returning to the same role, and PNKSLM labelmate Hannes Ferm of HOLY chipping in on engineering duties and playing some piano and synth. Appel’s girlfriend Emma, meanwhile, co-wrote a couple of the tracks - "Struggle" and "It Will Be Better Now". “I’m a fan of sloppy recordings,” explains Appel. “You know how on the first Velvet Underground album, you can hear that the individual performances aren’t that important? It’s how it all sounds when it comes together. So I recorded my vocals and played the guitar parts at the same time, and then added a lot of different instruments on top of it. Emma sings some backing vocals, and [insert name here] played synthesizers and even tuba!”
As for the record’s dramatic title, Appel thinks there’s several potential meanings. “It’s a phrase from one of the songs, but I think it could describe so many different feelings. It could be bodies literally burning, it could be bodies that are burning with emotion, it could be bodies physically heating up as you’re having sex. There’s a lot of possibilities.” Lion’s Den are set to return to the studio later this year to work on their sophomore album; whilst it’s likely to be a world away sonically from Burning Bodies, it’ll no doubt be a stronger record for Appel having made such a compelling solo detour.