Transplanted Swedish singer does it herself and does it well enough you forget about the makeshift origins of her songs.
Theresa Andersson may be Swedish, but she lives in New Orleans. That geographical and cultural span actually sums up Andersson’s music fairly well; its melding of the kind of impeccably managed pop one tends to think of in reference to Sweden and something rougher and more handmade. Andersson recorded the album in her kitchen, playing almost all of the instruments herself (and writing all of the music, although Jennifer Faust and producer Tobias Fröberg provide the lyrics), and much to their credit, Hummingbird, Go! only sounds like the kind of small, intimate record that implies when Andersson and company want it to.
The album starts with “Na Na Na” (initially noted on the Internet for the video of Andersson crafting the whole track by herself with some loop pedals), and from the opening burst of drums, the track is more extroverted than one might expect. It offers immediate proof Andersson not only has a great voice but also has the relatively rare gift of being able to use it well. After the brief sighingly horticultural interlude of “Clusters”, Andersson again ramps things up for the surprisingly Motown-esque “Birds Fly Away”. Powered by a drum loop from New Orleans funky-drummer institution Smokey Johnson, it finds Andersson really leaning into the chorus over hand claps and girl-group backing vocals. It might be the highlight of the record.
That “Birds Fly Away” follows the brief “Introducing the Kitchenettes”, where Andersson sets up a series of backing vocals via chipmunk dopplegangers for the next song, one might think Hummingbird, Go! will settle into a routine of fizzy, fuzzy pop songs and miniature, abstract song fragments. That would have made for a good album, but Andersson has different and ultimately more rewarding things in mind. Ane Brun stops by for the rapturously downcast “Innan du Går”, and Fröberg lends backing vocals to his own “God’s Highway”, which boasts a similar kind of widescreen melancholy. “Japanese Art” (almost too cute with its love for various cultures and corresponding artifacts, places, foods, and so on) and “Locusts Are Gossiping” keep the second half of the record from lapsing entirely into solemnity, but by the time the wrenching “Minor Changes” ends Hummingbird, Go! with the aching refrain “Don’t know where I’ll go / But I know I’m not staying”, the woman who initially seemed best at well-crafted, subtly retro pop proves her facility with a much wider emotional and sonic palette.
A sign of Andersson’s growth and craft lies in the transition never coming across as awkward, and despite the ad-hoc nature of the arrangements (a tuned-down guitar for a bass, soda bottles filled with water for a vibraphone), Hummingbird, Go! is more notable for the quality of the songs within rather than for the circumstances of its creation. Andersson’s been doing this for a while now, having played with the Neville Brothers, the Meters, and Allen Toussaint, and it has paid off. With any luck, this album should afford her some fame of her own.