Even if you don’t recognise her name, it’s likely you’re familiar with Victoria Bergsman’s voice. The one-time lead singer of Swedish indie pop act The Concretes, Bergman’s vocal chords will be forever lodged in the public consciousness since her appearance on Peter, Bjorn and John’s 2007 smash, Young Folks.
Bergsman could have capitalised on the enormous success of that song, but she’s instead pursued a quieter route under her Taken by Trees moniker. Open Season, her 2007 debut, was a shimmering collection of dreamy, folk-inflected pop songs that stuck close to the terrain she explored in her previous band. While lacking in daring composing, she more than made up for it with her subdued yet spellbinding delivery.
The record was an artistic, if not entirely commercial, success, but perhaps sensing it was time to boldly leap into the unknown, Bergsman’s changed tack with its follow-up, East of Eden.
Taking a page from The Beatles, Sting and every other pop musician who’s searched for fresh inspiration while standing at a career crossroad, Bergsman headed east – or, more specifically, to Pakistan, to record her new album. It’s a brave move for someone associated with the normally risk-averse world of indie-pop. But even with the bulk of the album’s support coming from local Pakistani musicians, there’s a prevailing wistfulness here that’ll be familiar to fans of Bergsman’s previous work.
Yet while To Lose Someone and Greyest Love of All again find the Swedish chanteuse offering humble reflections on love and friendship, Bergsman’s words and vocals weave their way into the sounds of her Lahore-based backing band in a beguiling manner that only unfolds with repeat listens. Elsewhere, she covers Animal Collective’s My Girls and rechristens it My Boys (AC’s Noah Lennox also contributes backing vocals to Anna), before closing with a musical reading of Hermann Hesse’s Bekännelse.
The shock of the new may be absent from Bergsman’s musical globetrotting, but East of Eden captivates by revealing its author to be an explorer who’s not afraid to blaze her own gentle trail. Best to file this one under adventurous with a small ‘a’. --Charles Ubaghs
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