Album Review: Theresa Andersson's Street Parade

Written by  Published in Album Reviews Monday, 30 April 2012 11:25

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Right before the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival kicked off, the city’s own Theresa Andersson has just released her already largely acclaimed album, Street Parade. On this LP, Andersson finds a way to combine her Nordic heritage with the rich cultural background of the city she now calls home. Much of the instrumentation on this record is traditional NOLA fare, with strong horn lines and second line drum cadences, but arranged in fresh way that calls back to pop melodies of a far northern place. A big draw for Andersson in her live shows is that she plays most of the instruments and loops herself, much in the same vein of how tUnE-yArDs constructs their live set. Andersson’s songs, however, are their own beast, and this album highlights how she’s able to intertwine all her own parts together to create her own original narratives.

On the appropriately chosen into song “Street Parade,” starts off with piercing horns that turn to mourning wails, while her voice sounds as if it’s echoing from a large, empty building in the French Quarter. Her words drift out into the dusky New Orleans streets, proclaiming “I’m not alone.” Perhaps she’s speaking to the people who always seem to populate those streets, and even commenting on the city’s history when she sings “tomorrow it all burns to ash,” as if to say that there’s no use fretting over tonight, so it may as well be embraced. This notion is augmented by how strong her voice becomes for a moment in the song, as if to serve as a reminder of how they’ve already survived.

The album proceeds from there in successfully piecing unusual combinations of elements and arrangements along with insightfully stimulating lyrics. On “Listen To My Heels,” a bass clarinet is a brilliant counterpoint to her percussive vocals, as if to symbolize the difference and relation between heels and toes. “January” harkens back to 60s doowop with Andersson’s own meticulously layered harmonies, and album closer “Plucks” is a more minimalist outro carried primarily by violin plucks with perfectly pitched staccato trumpet.

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Photo Credit: Shervin Lainez

Leading single “Hold On to Me” stands out due to it’s immediate pulsing with urgency, leading into the title’s melodic request. From there, “Ruby” is at first a strange feeling segue, as it dips the mood from empowering to haunting. For the first time on the album, Andersson takes a definite quick trip back to a Nordic landscape, as if to remember a past experience.

We snap right back to the present with “What Comes Next,” with a parade intro. This song does something amazing at around the minute and a half mark, when Peter Bjorn and John’s Peter Moren joins in on vocals. Moren’s voice as a layer instantly fuses the two cultural pop sensibilities, while singing vividly symbolic lyrics about an heirloom. The arc of this song is even more heightened by the fact that it’s also the zenith of the album’s arc, being exactly in the middle. All stars seem to align on this song to sum up what Andersson is all about. Her and Moren repeat “I am not afraid to give all my love to you,” a lyric that can be interpreted as widely or narrowly as you’d like, but in this case it lends itself to the former. On this album, Andersson communicates that she is not afraid to put everything she’s got into her music, while pulling from all her cultural influences.

With both percussive and melodic vocals supported primarily by elements of other percussion, bass, and strong horns, Andersson’s songs are pure rhythm, enhanced by extra flourishes of brass and strings. These are songs that find strength in knowing when to hold back, as well as jubilant freedom in letting go. A street parade is fleeting, but this album is full of songs that have enough wit and creativity to keep echoing beyond the streets.

Last modified on Monday, 30 April 2012 14:29
Kelly Knapp

I grew up listening to the music my parents listened to. My mom gave me some of her “Golden Oldies” cassette tapes, and I could sit in my room for hours harmonizing with The Ronettes, and staring at Del Shannon, who I thought was a total stud in his tiny black and white photo on the glossy fold-out insert. I listened to Willie Nelson because my Dad admired him so much, and I wanted to understand what was so great about him too. My first concert wasn’t a huge life changer; I saw Inner Circle at a local Jambalaya festival in Central Florida. Their biggest hit was “Bad Boys,” the theme song to COPS. If anything, that concert should have traumatized me. But, at the time I had no comprehension of any crassness. I just remember the guitarist making eye contact with me and smiling, and feeling excitement over having a brief connection with someone who was making me dance.

It’s the same thing with listening to music with words in another language. It’s not necessary to understand words or literal meanings. It’s the way the melodies and rhythms evoke feeling. It’s like that saying about art, how you may not be able to explain it, but you know it when you see it. I can’t always describe music (although obviously, I sure as hell try to), but I know what I like when I feel it, and I think those who can evoke that feeling deserve to be acknowledged for it. That’s what I want to describe. That’s what I want to share.

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