Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Review: A Camp - Colonia (* * * *)

A Camp's U.S. debut has been a long time in coming, to put it mildly. The trio, led by Cardigans front woman Nina Persson, released their debut album in 2001, though it never made it to the States. Eight years between records is obviously enough to dissolve any sort of momentum the band may have built (winning four Swedish Grammies), but Persson has earned the right to our attention whenever she unveils new material, and she's certainly got mine. Colonia is a charming collection of twelve quaint tracks carried by her beautifully relaxed voice, with husband Nathan Larson and Niclas Frisk (and some friends) helping to create a captivating atmosphere.

It's obvious, right from the beginning of the record, that these songs belong to Persson. She has more than capable musical assistance, to be sure, but it's her amazing voice and tremendous sense of melody that vaults these tunes into such lofty territory. "The Crowning" leads the bunch, a stately waltz paying false homage to some unnamed big shot with a soaring chorus that is absolutely gripping, while lead single, "Stronger Than Jesus," continues the effortlessly gorgeous melodic trend. In fact, though not every songs is spectacular, everything is at least decent, and usually better. Other highlights include the string-laced "Love Has Left the Room," the bluesy piano piece, "I Signed the Line," and a striking duet with fellow Swede Nicolai Dunger, "Golden Teeth and Silver Medals."

Though the record follows a fairly straightforward musical style, the musicians assisting on the album (James Iha, Joan Wasser, and many others) add their unique touch to the songs, expanding Persson's tunes and adding depth to her arrangements. "Here Are Many Wild Animals" combines a groovy, Beach Boys-esque opening with dark, churning guitars, while "My America" includes some fun horn arrangements that give the song a jazzy feel. In some ways, this is a simple pop rock album; it doesn't push borders or offer much that we haven't heard before, but the subtle stylistic variations combined with the obvious quality of the musicianship make it a solid effort and one you should take the time to hear.

If you still need some convincing, you can check out the band's MySpace page, or head over to Stereogum to download "Love Has Left the Room."