Nina Persson's music has always had a strength and singularity of vision. All of her past works have had a distinct thematic push, informing everything from the melodies to the songwriting and lyricism, through to the visualization of the works. She’s been a retro Swedish sweetheart, a plastic pop dream girl, an Appalachian lullaby-cooing songbird and a hardened love worn soul in search of a co-conspirator. It’s been this singularity if vision that has always left her fans enthralled by her latest, as well as her next move.
While A Camp has always been The Cardigans' Nina Persson’s solo project, which truly evolved out of her own needs to express her own vision, with her second A Camp release, Colonia, this is no longer true. A Camp is now a band. Atomic Swing’s Niclas Frisk, Shudder To Think’s Nathan Larson and Nina Persson are now a fully realized band, and it shows. From the musicality, the production and the execution, it’s clear that this is a collaboration. This is not to say that this is a shortcoming, it’s just a new A Camp.
And Colonia is full of change. While the record still has a strong thematic center, “historical imagery,…from the opium den to the Belgian Congo, from the Namibian desert by starlight to Victorian New York by gaslight, and the Bowery of the '70s by neon,” it’s definitely not pared down and singular. And, yes, the lyrics, mood and music all feed this grand vision. Oddly, the album’s track progression belies the fact by setting forth the first four songs as A Camp circa 2001’s “business as usual.” By the fifth track, though, the gears shift. The tunes then begin to run from swelling film score to 60s girl group pop, and from royal pomp to melodramatic circumstance.
But while this mixture of styles and themes may be the strength of the album to some, it will also feel like it’s downfall to others. Even though the signatures of her work are still outstanding, long-time fans may long for the stronger on-point message most have come to expect from Persson. But one must also realize that this is still her band and her vision. The real message is: A Camp is now a band. To those who prefer Persson as a solo artist, this may not justify the changes, but to her, it’s simply her next move.