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Escaping their daily lives in Paris, Olivia Merilahti and Dan Levy fled to the countryside to record their third studio album. Discovering an 18th century water tower, they took the opportunity to transform it into their recording space. Amongst the rural surroundings, they pursued a sound more synthetic in texture than their previous work, created in an almost medieval setting. In their interview with us, Olivia explained how they resolved to not use their guitars and drums. Instead, they kept a minimal set-up of a keyboard and laptop to write the basis of the songs. The result is a collection of songs that are bombastic, direct and exacting.
The foundation of Shake Shook Shaken is conflict, either with ourselves or others. Olivia channels her Finnish ancestry as she wrote its lyrics with the concept of 'sisu' in mind, meaning resilience and bravery. 'Keep Your Lips Sealed' opens the record with a mantra of holding your own in the face of adversity. It sirens in majestic horns and crashing beats, arousing the image of warfare. The songs carry the pain of relationships coming to an end and dealing with the aftermath. On 'Miracles (Back In Time)' Olivia recognises how herself and an ex-partner are "twisted both the same," while the urgent pop of 'Despair, Hangover and Ecstacy' abrasively articulates, "we live in airports like we don't have a plan."
A pinnacle of the album is its fourth song, 'Sparks'. Spindling in on a rotating loop of strings, it gorgeously washes over, as Olivia laments the past with the affirmation, "we have it on tape now." Nonetheless, the band never let the themes become consuming or weigh down the music. In fact, they keep a certain level of humour and spontaneity with the likes of the ska-tinged opener and 'Going Through Walls'. They also spread a number of surprises throughout. The ominous organ of 'A Mess Like This' arches the album, as it creeps up again in the closing instrumental 'Omen'. It chills like the soundtrack of a classic horror with its industrial, blustering beats and chaotic, chopped-up vocals.
Overall, The Dø's third album is the product of being liberated by the technology adopted during the recording process. It seems fitting that an album about being fearless is the one in which they abandon their usual writing style, in favour of new digital approaches. Shake Shook Shaken rocks with an infectious confidence as they brim with a determination to survive.
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