When A Camp's understated debut album emerged in 2001, it was inevitably overshadowed by Nina Persson's day job as frontwoman for the globally successful Cardigans. But with that band's commercial star dimmed and their very future in doubt, this wintery, sixties-soaked second record seems less side dish and more main course. As such it's tart, sweet and satisfying.
Colonia was produced by Persson with her film composer husband and it shows, with her piercing vocals framed by lusciously atmospheric arrangements. Take the opening The Crowning, a waltzing, twinkling lament that packs a lyrical punch (as with fellow Swede Jens Lekman, Persson is vastly more adept with English than most homegrown indie plodders). Or hear how Persson's voice floats hauntingly over music box whirring on Bear On The Beach.
Stronger Than Jesus is as good, built from the kind of melancholy guitar line, weaving central melody and celestial harmonies that McAlmont and Butler perfected on their two unjustly neglected albums. Love Has Left The Room and I Signed The Line are similarly direct, and as melodically and emotionally rich as the Cardigans at their loveliest, while the heavily orchestrated To Be Human is effortlessly affecting.
The only real criticism of Colonia is that the frosty, wistful mood can veer towards saminess, although when A Camp experiment on Here Are Many Wild Animals, the results are mixed. This song has a ravishing, energised chorus, but is marred by kitschy vocal effects and handclaps, the sole remnant of Persson's recent Adam Ant obsession. As for the ambient instrumental Eau De Colonia, it's both inoffensive and inessential.
But these are minor gripes, and the overwhelming impact of Colonia is of a singer and songwriter in total command of her powers. Perhaps the return of The Cardigans isn't as desirable as it once seemed. --Jaime Gill
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