Recently, I was sent the newest album by Nina Persson-fronted band A Camp, mostly because I am a big fan of their initial album, and the single “I Can Buy You”, which I talked about in another post. Thanks to Stunt Company, the band’s American promotion company for sending the disc. And good news; this is a fantastic album.
A Camp lead singer Persson recently moved from her native Sweden to New York City, having married Shudder to Think’s Nathan Larson who also fills out the line up. Perhaps it’s this that inspired the title of A Camp’s newest album Colonia, having shifted from what might be considered the Old World, to the New World, sometimes called ‘The Colonies” by some even today. And where this is not a concept record about the contrasts between one world and another, there is certainly undercurrents to be found in a song like “My America”, which captures the idea that a new place can seem both fascinating and disorienting at the same time.
The overall sound here is more focused than the band’s eponymous debut, which is not to say it’s a better record, necessarily. But, you get the sense that the group has finally landed on a musical neighbourhood patch, rather than the sonic road trip they’d been on while cutting their debut. There are fewer country-rock textures here than there were on that debut. The textures here on this new disc are a bit more orchestral, with real strings and brass accentuating the guitars-bass-piano-drums, and electronics.
What they’ve created is a smart, grown-up strain of pop music, with singer Persson at the very centre of it all. Her voice is some of the best singing I’ve heard from her, including her work with the Cardigans. Her voice is perfectly positioned on every track, fitting in comfortably into each of the songs, maybe most strikingly on the single “Stronger Than Jesus”, which you can hear here. Other stand-out tracks are the Beatle-esque “Chinatown”, the string-laden and melancholic “It’s Not Easy To Be Human”, and the album opener, “The Crowning”.
There is something classicist about this album, with a strong emphasis on songwriting and strong melodies more so than a simple study in stylistic excursion. And it belongs firmly to the writers as a result, with nods to the band’s influences (The Beatles, Brian Wilson, Neil Young, The Sundays), yet easily avoiding pastiche. It helps that musical guests are heavyweights in their own right, including Joan Wasser (AKA Joan As Policewoman), Smashing Pumpkins’ James Iha, original A Camp-er Mark Linkous, and sought-after cellist Jane Scarpantoni, among others.
The only criticism that might be levelled at the band is that they gave fans quite a wait for this excellent disc. Yet, perhaps this gestation period is a part of why it is so focused, why the songs are so richly realized, and why they seem to belong together as an album.
For more information about A Camp, including tour dates (they’re coming my way in mid-June!), check out the band’s website, ACamp.net.
And of course for more music, be sure to check out the A Camp MySpace page.