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Peter Bjorn and John Experiment With Hip-Hop, Afro-Pop on 'Living Thing'

January 13, 2009 1:28 PM ET

In 2006, Swedish trio Peter Bjorn and John delivered one of the year's most memorable jams, "Young Folks." (You may recall it as that insanely catchy tune with all the whistling.) In March, the group will return with Living Thing, which they recorded last year in Stockholm, New York and Los Angeles. While the new album doesn't contain any whistle-happy cuts, fans will be psyched to hear the group trade in folk-pop tunes for tracks that experiment more with electro-pop, hip-hop and Afro-pop. And the new direction totally works. Even Kanye West approves of the group's sonic shift: "PETER BJORN & JOHN... SHIT IS DOPE!!," he blogged in his signature shouty style. "DRUMS ARE CRAZY AND I LIKE THE KIDS ON THE HOOK."

"Nothing to Worry About" layers a heavy boom-bap, some funked-up bass licks and electro hand-claps with a crew of children turning out some Bollywood-esque chanting on the chorus. "Doing this thing, this type of thing," they yelp. "Put a little money in this type of thing/ I got nothing to worry about." Other highlights include "It Don't Move Me," which sounds like a long-lost Flock of Seagulls gem and the title track, which sort of evokes Solomon Linda's stone classic "Mbube" (more commonly known as "The Lion Sleeps Tonight"). And if you ever thought Swedish dudes weren't the most street-tough of folks, Peter Bjorn and John lay those claims to rest on "Lay It Down," where they chant "Hey! Shut the fuck up boy! You are starting to piss me off."

"Our plan was to take our songs as far as possible and use sounds in some not-so-obvious ways," says Bjorn Yttling. "We want [the record] to be magical and sexy. We don't want people to think, 'Oh, here comes the guitar.' It can't be so easy all the time." Yttling — who has recently produced new records by Lykke Li, Sahara Hotnights and Primal Scream — also has some more producing projects on deck. First up? Tokyo-based female garage-rock quartet the Suzan. "I was just surfing around the Internet and heard them," he says. "I think the record will be really good and hopefully some really good-hearted people will pick it up."

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Song Stories

“Nightshift”

The Commodores | 1984

The year after soul legends Marvin Gaye and Jackie Wilson died, songwriter Dennis Lambert asked members of the Commodores to give him a tape of ideas. "And the one from Walter Orange has this wonderful bass line," said co-writer Franne Golde. "Plus the lyric, 'Marvin, he was a friend of mine' ... Within 10 minutes, we had decided it should be something like a modern R&B version of 'Rock 'n' Roll Heaven,' and I just said, 'Nightshift.'" This tribute to the recently deceased musicians was the band's only hit without Lionel Richie, who had left for a solo career.

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