In many ways Nina Persson has tried valiantly to craft her finest album with this, the second solo-outing Colonia.
Persson, (ex?)Cardigans vocalist and genre hopping extraordinaire has always had a knack for taking her whimsical, dainty voice (not to mention persona) and delivering heart wrenching diatribes surrounded by grandiose hooks. As a good singer-songwriter should, she did this with a decided level of restraint. Giving attention to song-structure and lyrical composition as opposed to how much could be stuffed into a single track, all the while never taking herself too
seriously. Most of the time, her work with The Cardigans, or A Camp, spoke for itself, so much so it's garnered her enough success to merit a somewhat decent budget for her proper A Camp
follow up. Given this increase in spending cash, Persson elects to do what we all probably would and invests a little more time(and dollas!) into her bells and whistles. Infusing Colonia’s
stab at classic Americana twang with a bit of Baroque Pop, 60s-swing, and art-punk fuzz. Problem is, while Niclas Frisk, Nina and hubby, former Shudder To Think guitarist Nathan Larson, are busy twiddling with your random string arrangement here, or uplifting burst of horns there – they forget all about the choruses. This is what brings the album, with an extremely strong start to an abrupt screeching halt pretty much about a third of the way through, and can't seem to pick it up again from there until the very end.
When Persson first decided to turn her songbook into a solo-album it was spurred on by a near band-ending recording break following 98‘s Gran Turismo,
and was a bit of a shot in the dark. Her first recordings with Frisk being scrapped once Mark Linkous of SparkleHorse agreed to produce the album. A situation like this, albeit improbable, would have lifted the tunes on Colonia
leaps and bounds. Every song on the album, while not bad, isn’t always interesting, especially the closer you are to the middle, which is disheartening seeing as all of these musicians have done this better plenty of times before. The mix together however, and the lack of some serious editing, give the album a lackluster sheen. Following the first four tracks, the album picks up a boring pace and keeps it. The ethereal feel of the debut is absent from the folk-pop and alt-country swagger of Colonia
, which wouldn’t be half bad if the change worked.
Persson may have the rightful artistic power this time around, but the fact of the matter is that Linkous’ production held the songs together, Persson lets them fall apart. Even while taking a slight hit in the lyrics department this time around, the tunes, fundamentally, aren’t much different at all from those on their debut. Lacking is the graveyard at dusk image the album projected over the course of it’s run time, effectively seeming like it was recorded as the sun set amongst the dead. serene and beautiful, yet innately creepy.
It was Nina’s performance, along with the buzz of reverb and morose vocal washes that gave the songs heft, the consistency of the production was integral. Colonia
at times just feels so empty, it can never make up it’s mind as to who its trying to be. The first five tracks present a varying array of different characters for Persson to play; the prissy medieval noble on opener “The Crowning,” 60s country all-star on “Strong Than Jesus,” and star crossed lovers with Larson on the pretty, acoustic strummer duet “Gold Teeth and Silver Medals.” Following this though, the album takes a turn down a dusty country road, moving at the pace of an ox-drawn cart. Colonia
quickly starts mimicking your standard boring alt-country record, at times in the worse way possible: fake sentimentality. Her and the boys are striving for this level of classic Americana, but end up falling flat, with the tracks bleeding together making the middle portion of the album utterly forgettable, and senseless. Up until the final two tracks, Colonia
sees fit to lie face down on the ground, inhaling sand and soot. Thankfully gorgeous closers “It’s Not Easy To Be Human” and “The Weed Had Got There First,” bring the album to a enchanting finale, almost removing the memory of drudged boredom that initially proceeded it. Which is good, because if anything it reiterates that fact that Colonia
is an album constructed by a group of very talented musicians, that just can’t seem to make up their god damned minds. Infuriating at (most)points, but offering up enough gems in the end the album is a satisfying enough listen from artists would could have used a few more hours in the editing room.