Theresa Andersson – Hummingbird, Go!

January 01, 1970

(Basin Street)

 

www.basinstreetrecords.com

 

Even for New Orleans, which
with its myriad musical hybrids is arguably the birthplace of the mashup, the
notion seems improbable: marrying contemporary Swedish indiepop to Crescent City traditionalism. And though Swede
expat/N’awlins resident Theresa Andersson tilts more in the direction of the
former than the latter, there’s an undeniable earthiness and primal power on Hummingbird, Go! that you won’t find on,
say, offerings from Lykke Li, Peter Moren (of Peter Bjorn and John), Jens
Lekman or El Perro Del Mar (just to name a handful of Swedish musicians – all
good, incidentally – with recent, heavily hyped releases). That she created the
album entirely in her own kitchen and played 99% of the instruments is all the
more impressive. (Swedish producer Tobias Froberg helped oversee the project to
the end, additionally playing Rhodes piano on
a couple of tracks; a handful of other musicians make brief appearances, but
for the most part its all Andersson.)

 

From the very start, you sense you’re in the presence of
something special: opening track “Na Na Na,” with its strings, Calexico-like
percussion and guitars, quickened-pulse beat and buoyantly keening vocals (Tori
Amos meets Joan Osborne), is one of those insta-anthems that sticks in your
mind after a single listen. “Birds Fly Away” finds Andersson subtly channeling
Motown soul – Duffy, watch your back – against a Brill Building-styled sixties
girl-group arrangement. Hold that thought: the following track is a 43-second
sha-la-la doo-woppy ditty cheekily called “Introducing the Kitchenettes.” Those
falsetto warbling Kitchenettes also handle backing vocals on the
Feist-goes-to-Hawaii “Hi-Low.” Meanwhile, a real guest singer (as opposed to a chorus of Anderssons) turns up on the album’s
genuine take-your-breath away track: “Innan du Gar,” sung in Swedish, is a duet
with Ane Brune, the two ladies so sonically simpatico as to be siblings, the
tune itself a heavenly meditation born aloft on a part-neoclassical,
part-Japanese melody for violin and guitar. An Asian vibe also surfaces in the
ethereal-but-edgy “Locusts Are Gossiping,” which at times suggests Kate Bush
performing with a Memphis
gospel choir. And “Japanese Art,” despite the title, it has no discernible
Asian flavoring, sounds like a back porch hoedown performed by klezmer and jazz
artists.

 

Starting to get the picture? Andersson’s not as
schizophrenic as the foregoing perhaps makes it sound, however. But you can
just tell that she’s bursting at the seams to get a lot out of her system, and
there’s probably no better place on earth to live than New Orleans for a musically restless soul
with hybridization in her blood. She moved to the city in 1990 at the age of 18
and since then has worked with the Radiators and fellow singer-songwriter Anders
Osborne as well as fronting the occasional band and issuing four solo records
of a primarily blues and jazz nature. Working all by her lonesome in her
kitchen, however, seems to have allowed Andersson to really focus and bring to
the surface the disparate influences and styles checked off above. It’s worth
noting her DIY instrumental ingenuity as well: on a number of tracks all is not
what it appears to be, including the vibraphone (actually tapped drink bottles
containing different levels of liquid) on “Waltz” and the slide guitar (wrong!
– it’s her oddly-tuned violin) on “Hi-Low.” She’s even been performing as a
one-woman band of late, employing pedals, loops and percussion in what’s been
described by critics as “little masterpieces of functional choreography.” Don’t
miss her if you get the chance to see her, and meanwhile, put your sugar feeder
out for this Hummingbird.

 

Standout Tracks: “Na
Na Na,” “Locusts Are Gossiping,” “Innan du Gar” FRED MILLS

 

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