The Cardigans have proven themselves deceptively complex popsmiths. The fetching Swedes became an international smash with their first two widely available albums, 1995's Life and '96's First Band on the Moon, which spawned the effervescent single "Lovefool." After releasing a dark, synth-heavy follow-up, 1998's lukewarmly received Gran Turismo, the group took five years to reemerge with Long Gone Before Daylight, whose American release was delayed another year. It was worth the wait: Long Gone is a career high. A heartfelt rock record with country flourishes, the disc erases any affectation and pretense the Cardigans had once assumed, instead offering a warmly rendered set of confessional pieces and gritty rockers in the vein of Neil Young. "A Good Horse," in particular, kicks and snorts like, well, Crazy Horse, while the Americana-inflected "Live and Learn" gilds vocalist Nina Persson's tale of survival after an emotional battle with organs and twangy guitars. The majority of the tunes, though, are akin to the dark yet winsome "And Then You Kissed Me." Cushioned by acoustic guitars and plush organs, Persson's voice still goes down as easily as a well-mixed cocktail, but her lyrics recount a violent relationship that left her with "a halo around my eye." Gone may be the days when Persson was innocently directing a suitor to "say that you love me," but the band's magnetic appeal only grows stronger with time.