Taken by Trees – East of Eden

eastRating: ★★☆☆☆

Vicotria Bergsman has long been the chanteuse of my dreams.  First, she warmed-me over with her sultry vocals during her tenure in The Concretes, and later, she kept me going with Taken by Trees. Now, she is releasing her second album under the latter, this one titled East of Eden.  Much will be made of her venture East, which like most Europeans gone East, has had a profound influence on her music.

Whilst many will no doubt link the sounds of this album to India, thanks to the unnecessary success of Slumdog Millionaire, Victoria went elsewhere for her muse: Pakistan. “To Lose Someone” is such a song, as it carries the ornate horns of such cultures to accompany Bergsman’s voice.  Even the percussion resembles the spirit of a simpler life. And while the wooden horn/flute/whatever dances in the background, the song closes with syllabic chanting that probably means little for listeners.

One of the best songs on the album, and easily one that you will find the most commercial is titled “My Boys.”  Why does it seems familiar you ask?  Well, it’s a cover of “My Girls” by Animal Collective. The melodies are precisely the same as the original, and in fact, the song completely mimes AC’s version, aside from a few lyric changes, and the obvious use of real instruments.  It’s interesting that this is the most accessible song, as it’s not one Victoria can call her own.

As a concept piece, it’s a great idea,  mixing her powerful vocals with an entirely different arrangement musically, but it has more failures than successes due to this.  “Watch the Waves” is a song that is full of flourishes from the travels to the East, but using non-pop-centric instruments strips Bergsman of her vocal prowess, and renders her somewhat dismissable for the greater part of the song, let alone, the album as a whole.

She goes too far at times, especially including “Wapas Karna” in the project, which is merely a number that is full of chanting, and little else.  If we wanted to listen to world music, there are surely better places to find such tunes (no offense Victoria).  It even seems as if she spent more work on developing a sound that stayed true to its roots, rather than create an album of her own songs, backed by the newer sonic discoveries.

In the end, the highlights of East of Eden are few and far between.  Taken by Trees has perhaps been taken to far East and away from the blissful harmonies that we associate with its lead singer Victoria Bergsman, leaving a concept album with limited range in its wake.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/08/taken-by-trees-watch-the-waves.mp3]

Download: Taken by Treese – Watch the Waves [MP3]

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