Living Thing


Generally favorable reviews - based on 31 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 16 out of 31
  2. Negative: 1 out of 31
  1. Alternative Press
    This is an album of spontaneous originality and should be appreciated as such. [May 2009, p.114]
  2. 80
    For Living Thing, they ditch the comfortable confines of the airy, featherweight pop they perfected on Writer’s Block for more sonically adventurous territory and prove in the process that their prior success was not just a fluke.
  3. The lyrics are by turns earnest and cheeky, but PB & J are most fun when they're feisty.
  4. 80
    Living Thing won't double as anyone's dance-party playlist. But it's an uneasy, bracingly honest soundtrack to life after fame.
  5. The Stockholm-based trio has also piped in a good deal of lyrical gravity--another contrast to PB&J's persistently perky first album--and the best tunes have a welcome heft.
  6. If Peter Bjorn and John keep putting out albums as challenging, intelligent, and emotional as this, there is no reason for anyone to get off the bandwagon any time soon.
  7. From the hipster head-bobber 'Nothing to Worry About' to the melancholy closer 'Last Night,' the trio takes a minimalist approach to creating beats and accompaniments, making its simple voices more affecting and the subtle production all the more charming.
  8. Living Thing isn’t easy listening, it functions best on headphones, and it doesn’t contain an obvious single. But music should be challenging.
  9. That shtick eventually wears thin on Living Thing, but on the stomping, squiggly 'Nothing to Worry About,' it kills.
  10. Living Thing is a quirky, cranky little beast, determined to defy expectations.
  11. The album is uneven by previous PB&J standards, but the band earns high marks for proving their hooks can translate into any stylistic language.
  12. The album finds Peter, Bjorn and John settling into a comfort zone that, while hardly groundbreaking, makes for intriguing listening.
  13. 70
    The sound matches lyrics about isolation and despair, achieving a freeze-dried catchiness in the opening songs. But by the end of the album, cleverness gives way to the bleak and the drab.
  14. The vocals come in a robotic monotone on 'I'm Losing My Mind,' and there's not much holding together all the rhythm on the opener, 'The Feeling.' It just shows that finding the right mix between melody and rhythm is a delicate balance, but these dozen tunes strike it more often than not.
  15. Living Thing may grow to become known as Peter Bjorn and John’s pirate album, a rattling, jangly near-hour of music that’s completely in step with itself.
  16. Swedes living la vida on curious new outing.
User Score

Generally favorable reviews- based on 14 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Positive: 5 out of 5
  2. Mixed: 0 out of 5
  3. Negative: 0 out of 5
  1. GlenM
    Sep 3, 2009
    With across the board **** to ***** (out of *****) ratings and grades above 8.0 (out of 10), Writer's Block -- the third studio album by With across the board **** to ***** (out of *****) ratings and grades above 8.0 (out of 10), Writer's Block -- the third studio album by Swedish indie-pop sensations Peter Bjorn and John -- is considered the band's magnum opus. Only a truly all-around amazing album could top it. Living Thing offers more varied sound and matches up no question to its predecessor (Seaside Rock, the band's mixed-reviewed 2008 instrumental release, doesn't count). "The Feeling" is a mellow electro-pop, drum-and-clap offering that contains some elements of a Capella. "It Don't Move Me" sounds like Tears for Fear meets the Arctic Monkeys. The synth works well with Peter Moren's never-fail vocals. "Just the Past" has a steady drum and hints of Afropop, making it draw an instant comparison to anything that Vampire Weekend has ever produced. The song finishes with a nice little repetitive "na-la-la-na-la-la-la-na..." chorus. "Nothing to Worry About" has been the most hyped track pre-release. It deserves praise simply for the kid-chanting chorus and it's lyrical comparison to "Amsterdam," coincidentally the fourth track off of Writer's Block (compare "put a little money in this type of thing" to "put a little money into traveling"). "Losing My Mind" is kind of random considering its pure post-punk revival in the vein of Interpol and Editors, as opposed to the more indie-pop prior four tracks. I can definitely see this as a potentially astonishing live song to perform. The title track "Living Thing" is impressive and is more symptomatic of PB+J's prior work, yet also very experimental and even a tidbit Animal Collective-y. "I Want You" is great! Put on headphones for the full effect. The guitar is particularly catchy, the vocals entrancing, and the feedback bass line just fitting (for lack of a better word). Best track on the album? I would argue so. "Hey, shut the fuck up boy, you are starting to piss me off. Take your hands off of that girl, you've already had enough." Yup, those are the opening lines of "Lay It Down." Innovative, huh? Snap your fingers and sing along to the aforementioned lines. You'll have fun. I tried it and I certainly did. I'm going to go ahead and say the next song "Stay This Way" is like a really good Jens Lekman tune. It's a story, some snapping, and a slow guitar riff. It makes Peter Moren happy. It makes him not want to go back or move on. A little disco goes down in "Blue Period Picasso," but don't let that label get to you. It's just a part of Moren's beating heart. Seriously, though, sometimes I wonder how the hell this band comes up with its lyrics and general song structure. It's beauty. You'll know what I am talking about. "4 out of 5," is it a reference to the first sentence of this review? Doubt that, but it could be a little foresight of what Rolling Stone would give this album. I like the '60s feel to this song. "Last Night" is the perfect speed for an album closer. A fast song just wouldn't make sense. I kind of expected a crazy experimental build-up towards the end, but you can't always get what you want. And that's perfectly fine. Looking at this album as a whole, I can't find too many faults. There are no "Objects of My Affection" or "Young Folks," but there are many tracks that have the same kind of awesomeness factor -- a reason why PB+J is a mainstay in my Top 10 favorite bands of all-time. Full Review »
  2. DavidE.
    Feb 2, 2010
    Maybe I'm a little crazy but this is by far my favorite PB & J release to date. Yes, even above the overly praised and hyped Maybe I'm a little crazy but this is by far my favorite PB & J release to date. Yes, even above the overly praised and hyped Writer's Block (Honestly after hearing Young Folks about 50 times unwillingly I have never played the track again). However, I find that I can come back to Living Thing time and time again because each song has an indelible pop hook and catchy riff, chorus structure or tongue in cheek lyric to smile at. Continuing with the honesty I did not like this album at first. I didn't get it, but after giving it a few more listens I caught onto more of the beats and found myself singing along with almost every track. This album is by all means a grower, and the growers are the best. This album is rewarding with each subsequent listening and truly makes me hopeful for the future releases from this trio. Full Review »
  3. willp
    Jul 9, 2009
    An unexpected and curious follow-up to 2006's "Writer's Block", this CD is notable to listeners of that album for its An unexpected and curious follow-up to 2006's "Writer's Block", this CD is notable to listeners of that album for its 'stripped' and 'desolate' approach to songs. Often starting with sparse vocals or a few beats, few songs make a huge melodic impact in the first 10-20 seconds of themselves. With most being slow burners, taking a minute or so to becoming well-defined, impatient listeners will be put off this release. This goes for a lot of time-pressed music critics, who probably only had a single spin of this disc before passing their premature and negative judgment. While there is no "Amsterdam" or "Young Folks" here, there is the sufficiently catchy "Just the Past" and "Nothing to Worry About" to lure in the listener. Further listening reveals powerful, memorable and high quality melodies beyond the bleak production and soundscapes. Living Thing builds from a beginning of strange clicks to an emotive chorus of "you don't have to look me in the eye", forming one of the album's highlights. "Blue Period Picasso" offers a similar structure, starting with a curious 'a capella', flowing intro a melody involving some Eno like sound bleeps and effects which prove memorable. The song itself shows its beauty with its vocal echoing through "a world famous art thief". Many of the songs are mournful and depressing. Particularly the desolate album closer "Last Night", "Stay this Way", which is tinged with sadness in melody and lyrical content, and "It Don't Move Me". The negative points of this CD are, apart from "Lay it Down" for me, its pure strengths. The CD music contains little variation in style throughout with stripped musicianship, bleak production and depressing vocals. PB&J have clearly evolved their artistic in a style where so many artists either fail or don't bother. This demonstrates great credibility for PB&J in my view. Their sound on "Living Thing" both evokes "Writer's Block", while taking giant steps in progressing in their sound. This pleasurable combination of the familiar and the unknown is what makes great music. I'm sure many people and critics will be let down by this. They probably hoped PB&J would continue to drift more mainstream after "Young Folks", and this certainly isn't it. However it's progressive and likely to make an impact on your life more than most of its contemporaries. Full Review »