Friday, May 8, 2009

A Camp - 'Colonia'

Cardigans frontwoman Nina Persson revived her A Camp side project this year with Colonia (technically she started recording it in 2007, but you get my meaning, doncha?). Husband and Shudder to Think guitarist Nathan Larson helps out this time, but the family affair just feels that much more disappointing. Colonia, A Camp’s second album, struggles to find its own identity, settling into a fey malaise.

Persson has said in interviews that she didn’t want Colonia to sound like A Camp’s self-titled debut or any phase of The Cardigans’ discography, which eliminates indie rock, country, trip-hop, and Black Sabbath covers. What’s left could be sort of compared to The Cardigans’ Long Gone Before DaylightColonia similarly deals in indie pop, but it dials down The Cardigans’ blend of smart yet depressing lyrics married to catchy hooks. And while it makes sense that Persson would want to grow as an artist, one has to ask what was wrong with writing clever, infectious pop songs.

Not that Colonia is a bad album. It’s just not a great one. Orchestral indie pop has been done better, both with and without Persson. So while songs like “Love Has Left the Room,” “Strong Than Jesus,” and “Chinatown” feature lush arrangements and big vocals, there’s still that sinking feeling that, well, there are better Persson albums one could be spinning. Gran Turismo’s spacey electronica and First Band on the Moon’s lounge pop certainly come to mind.

In the interest of being fair and balanced and whatever, here are a few more of the album’s positives: “Golden Teeth and Silver Medals,” a duet with Nicolai Dunger about singing duets. It’s so meta! The chiming piano opening to “The Crowning” is kinda interesting. And Persson’s voice is still a great selling point. She doesn’t necessarily have the widest range, but she can still go big with flecks of grit peppered in. And that coo still makes me swoon.

Colonia suffers from the burden of expectations. If it came from an up-and-coming band, I’d be polite and call it “promising.” But coming from a pop genius like Persson, I have to call bullshit. The record just doesn’t hit me, either on a lyrical or pop level.

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