NPR logo

Rote Learning

  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/519511086/519627177" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
Songs We Love: Agent Blå, 'Rote Learning'

Songs We Love: Agent Blå, 'Rote Learning'

Rote Learning

  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/519511086/519627177" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">

Agent Blå's new album, Agent Blue, comes out June 9. Fredrik Andersson/Courtesy of the artist hide caption

toggle caption
Fredrik Andersson/Courtesy of the artist

Agent Blå's new album, Agent Blue, comes out June 9.

Fredrik Andersson/Courtesy of the artist

Gothenburg, Sweden's Agent Blå ("Agent Blue" in English) hasn't been a band for very long, but its unique hybrid — a goth genre combination of indie-pop and post-punk that it calls "death pop" — evokes a certain youthful immediacy that feels far removed from infancy. The composite makes sense, considering the band's members range in age from 17 to 20 years old.

"Rote Learning," the first single from Agent Blå's self-titled debut LP, is dense, distorted and centered around frontwoman Emelie Alatalo's descending cry: "What the f** are we doing?" It feels more like a demand than a question. Produced by guitarist Gustav Data of fellow Gothenburg group Makthaverskan, the track highlights the sinister sweetness the two bands share.

Agent Blå, Agent Blue Courtesy of the artist hide caption

toggle caption
Courtesy of the artist

In education, rote learning is the process of memorizing something through repetition. It exists in opposition to critical thinking and, in many ways, problem solving — it's not efficient. Agent Blå's death pop reflects that: Alatalo's question, that projection of relatable insecurity, becomes the focus of her frustration; her answer is never found. She sings a variant of "What the f*** are we doing?" seven times throughout the song, occupying a space of uncertainty through reiteration. It's anxious and loving and convoluted.

"The songs on Agent Blue are about bad parties and waiting for them to be over," Alatalo writes, "and relationships, toxic friendship and young love. 'Rote Learning' is about meeting someone new and you aren't sure where you stand with them." It's a relatable kind of confusion, one that gives a beautiful pop song some bite. Even if there aren't any answers to be found in "Rote Learning," the journey is worth dissection.


Agent Blue comes out June 9 via Kanine Records / Luxury Records.

Purchase Featured Music

Buy Featured Music

Album
Agent Blue
Artist
Agent Blå
Released
2017

Your purchase helps support NPR programming. How?