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Taken by Trees - Open Field

Released on Rough Trade Records, 6/18/07

Whistling and bongos -- two things I never imagined would pair well. But not only do they pair well, they have actually made it too “cool”. Tell me you haven’t gotten the Peter Björn and John track “Young Folks” stuck in your head, that you haven’t found yourself whistling along to the intro, and I will have to challenge you to a duel. It’s darn catchy!

The female singer on this insta-hit, being neither Peter nor John, is actually Victoria Bergsman, the former singer from the Swedish pop group The Concretes. After leaving the group due to internal differences, road weariness, stage fright, and the unfortunate theft of all their gear in New York City, Bergsman did the only thing that made sense to her at the time. She swore off the industry and signed a deal with Rough Trade to release her own project, Taken by Trees.

Open Field is the reluctant product of a passion that will not subside. I know that sounds contrived but after a few good listens there is a yearning within these tracks that comes across in a wonderfully honest and innocently enthusiastic way. It is almost as though each track is Bergsman’s first attempt at songwriting, something captured from within the walls of her secondary school bedroom on a four-track recorder. Again, Bergsman teamed up with Peter Björn, who produced Open Field, and their approach is simplistic and formulaic: minimal instrumentation, rich, warm acoustics, and a heavy reverb that makes each song feel like Easter Sunday, as if performed from within a chapel of devout believers.

Bergsman sticks with familiar progressions throughout the album, giving the sound a feel of vague yet recognizable déjà vu. Her voice is velvety and soft, mildly accented, and very much in the front of the mix. In “Lost and Found” she speaks of being love sick and heartbroken much in the same way as one of Phil Spector’s girl groups from the 60s. The orchestral arrangements also feel borrowed from another decade, though perhaps slightly earlier.

“Open Field” has a lilting string arrangement that could be the score from an early American settler film or a coming of age story set in the country’s heartland. Bergsman sings of love, loss, friendship and forgiveness with frankness and guilelessness. The result is a wonderfully light and easy listen for tired ears and frank hearts.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars