In the late '90s, Cardigans vocalist Nina Persson took a break from the rigors of worldwide fame and teamed up with Atomic Swing frontman Niclas Frisk on a small side project christened A Camp. The duo shelved the concept for three years, eventually getting Sparklehouse's Mark Linkous to produce the subsequent sessions on their self-titled 2001 debut, an album that won four Swedish Grammies but never had a U.S. release. Two years ago, Frisk, Persson and her husband Nathan Larson (ex-Shudder to Think) were all living in New York and resurrected A Camp with the idea to work faster and more cohesively. Their success is all over the group's second album, Colonia.
Stylistically, A Camp covers a broad sonic range — from doo wop to baroque rock to ethereal pop, all filtered through a contemporary mindset. Persson's vocals run a similar gamut, exuding the quiet beauty of Jane Siberry, the devastating power of Chrissie Hynde and the visceral attraction of pre-cigarettes-and-heroin Marianne Faithfull. Some songs brim with a contemporary Tin Pan Alley feel, like Aimee Mann channeling Harry Nilsson ("The Crowning"), others sway expansively like Sam Phillips arranged by Burt Bacharach ("Stronger Than Jesus," "Love Has Left the Room"). And when Frisk joins in, he brings a compelling Ron Sexsmith quality to the proceedings. Every listen reveals another subtle layer to Colonia's depth and is further evidence that A Camp is considerably more than a mere side project. — Brian Baker