TAKEN BY TREES – ” Another Year ” Songs Of Colin Blunstone

Posted: December 17, 2022 in MUSIC

Victoria Bergsman was first introduced to the music of Colin Blunstone while crate digging in the late 1990s with her bandmates from the indie-pop group The Concretes. Blunstone became a cornerstone influence on her solo career as Taken by Trees ever since the discovery of “One Year“, an underrated 1971 classic garbed in poppy strings and romantic longing. The singer-songwriter recently moved from Los Angeles back to Sweden and was working on her own material again when someone suggested she record some covers of songs by The Zombies frontman.

Bergsman’s incomparable alto range is the central draw for this wintery five-song collection of covers that pull from that debut solo record and its 1972 follow-up, “Ennismore”. Bergsman’s voice comfortably sits within the penumbra of everyday speaking tones, yet she amplifies her softer singing intonations just enough to create tension and a sense of theatricality. As a singer, Bergsman has always sounded like she’s been frozen behind a wall of ice, patiently thawing her way out over the course of each song. “One Year’s” original string arrangements are replaced by lilting vibraphones, flutes, sax, and clarinets throughout. Contributors for the EP included longtime friends Peter Bjorn and John, who featured Bergsman on their 2006 indie-pop hit “Young Folks.” Björn Yttling stepped in as the executive producer and guitarist at his studio space, while John Eriksson covered percussion.

Pop vibraphonist Esther Lennstrand is the real highlight on the release beyond Bergsman, though. Esther’s firm command of the instrument makes these covers stand out from Blunstone’s originals, even when comparisons are harsher on the slow-burning new interpretations. Hushed exchanges of vibraphone and sax illuminate the edges of “One Year’s” “Say You Don’t Mind” and “Ennismore’s” “Time’s Running Out.” The originals enjoyed the accompaniment of jaunty strings and Nick Drake–like acoustic drawls, respectively. The new versions stand on their own.

The other Ennismore song on this release is “I Don’t Believe in Miracles,” on which Bergsman’s hesitant voice comes across like a dark lullaby in its construction and timbre. Taken by Trees as an ongoing project has always sought new and peculiar instruments to attach to its rich pop melodies. The same can be said of Another Year as a mournful saxophone drives the closing track “She Loves the Way They Love Her.” The original Zombies version was a madcap pop odyssey about stardom and a waning love affair, but Taken by Trees slows it down and focuses more on the woman at the center of the harsh spotlight who has dealt with her fair share of live performance anxiety.

One of Colin Blunstone’s best singles as a solo artist was “Caroline Good Bye,” which chronicled a breakup with actress Caroline Munro, who would go on to be a Bond girl in 1977’s The Spy Who Loved Me, among other roles. Bergsman’s rendition is beautiful in a more restrained and crystalline way, as vibraphone and piano inch forward and eventually meet with the full band as backup vocals rise and fall for the choruses.

Another Year” is a demure EP that’s not overindulgent in its approach. It’s best to take it as a compact and nonchalant appetizer before possible future recordings from Taken by Trees, or just another reason to engage with Colin Blunstone’s strong solo discography again. Victoria Bergsman lends each of these songs her unique style with no pressure to overcommit beyond showcasing some quiet appreciation for another songwriter.

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