Just in time for the weather to turn cold, Taken By Trees has the perfect antidote for the lethargy of winter. This is third album from the former vocalist of The Concretes, Victoria Bergsman, and it transports you, as its name implies, to Other Worlds – specifically, the beaches and rainforests of Hawaii.
While the band’s 2009 album was recorded during Bergsman’s travels in Pakistan, this time she sought inspiration from the Pacific state. But Other Worlds doesn’t have the kind of cliché, sunny ukelele tunes you might expect. The album is all about the atmosphere – a carefully crafted soundscape of gauzy, woozy tunes draped in synths, laid-back and languorous, complemented by the occasional recordings of ocean waves and chirping birds in paradise. Bergsman blends her dreamy, electronic music with strains of island-pop, synthesizers with pedal guitars and tropical percussion. “Horizon” starts the album off with fuzzy synths, a languid tempo, and Bergsman’s signature sweet, low vocals. A pedal guitar ambles behind the haze, its notes bending leisurely. The song is no more than a brief preface to the album, imbued with the sound of warm, light rain as it fades into “Highest High.” Bergsman’s vocals, always smooth, are unobtrusive, floating in and out of focus.
Much of Other Worlds is just like this: its songs, like “Dreams,” feature gentle, crooning vocals, relaxed tempos, and ethereal soundscapes with warm guitar melodies. They’re not lyrically impressive, but Bergsman can get away with that; on “Dreams” she simply repeats “baby, in your dreams” like a mantra, but it works nonetheless.
And it’s not just dream pop, either; Other Worlds dips into a variety of genres and styles. Syncopated, staccato guitars give the sun-kissed love song “In Other Words” a ’60s beach-pop feel, and “Pacific Blue” has an explicit island-pop sound with bright keys and tropical percussion that fades into the sound of clicking shells and vibrating synths, as if you’re underwater and hearing the melodies through the shifting waves. Bergsman even tries out some (almost) dance tunes, with the funky bass on “Only You” and the slick, catchy synths, uptempo beat, and disco horns on the excellent “Large.”
We’ve been to Pakistan and Hawaii with Taken By Trees so far, and each time Bergsman has distilled disparate geography and musical styles into her own unique sound. Wherever in the world she’ll go next, it’s sure to be a great trip.