By Paul Faller
Viewing the ‘About Us’ page on their website, with its baby photos and random collection of personal facts, you’d be forgiven for assuming that Norwegian six-piece Team Me are insufferably twee. Fortunately, while twee is indeed a somewhat apt adjective to describe their debut album To The Treetops!, it’s the kind of full-blooded, exuberant sort of ‘tweecore’ that first brought Los Campesinos! to the world’s attention – think harmonies and gang vocals combined with dense, evocative instrumentation, and you’re on the right lines.
The band channel Los Camp most directly on the album’s first single ‘With My Hands Covering Both Of My Eyes I Am Too Scared To Have A Look At You Now’ – an infectious, upbeat romp that’s shot through with nervous hope. Elsewhere though, there’s a sense of grandeur that calls to mind other artists instead – opener ‘Riding My Bicycle (From Ragnvalsbekken To Sørkedalen)’ quickly builds from mellow synths and harmonious humming into a bold, bright soundscape worthy of Jonsi’s solo work. ‘Dear Sister’ is a breathless, joyful whirlwind that’s a little reminiscent of Arcade Fire, while ‘Show Me’s chiming instrumentation brings to mind one of Patrick Wolf’s more upbeat moments, though the lyrics are are bittersweet – “I’m playing with a dangerous flame again/I think I’m happy as can be when you are gone.”
Speaking of Patrick Wolf, the band aren’t afraid to wear their influences on their sleeves on occasion – the most obvious example being the sparkling ‘Patrick Wolf & Daniel Johns’, which tells of sacrifices made for a loved one (“I traded Daniel for you/I missed my Patrick ’cause of you.”) A more unlikely source of inspiration comes from Sir David Brewster, renowned physicist and inventor of the kaleidoscope – indeed, ‘Looking Thru The Eyes Of Sir David Brewster’ is a woozy peon to kaleidoscopic vision as a pure form of escapism. By contrast, there’s an alternative kind of escapism among the sweeping violins, thunderous toms and stirring harmonies of ‘Weathervanes And Chemicals’ – “you turned yourself into a stranger/and the chemicals were dancing in your blood.”
The band demonstrate a knack for dynamics throughout the record, but nowhere is this better demonstrated than on ‘Favourite Ghost’, which begins with sparse acoustic guitars and melancholy vocals before taking you on a beautiful, meandering journey that leads to an explosively powerful Wild Beasts meats My Bloody Valentine conclusion. ‘Fool’ begins as a sweetly-sung acoustic lullaby before suddenly bursting into life during its chorus, while ‘Daggers’ brings the record to a fitting close, building from a luscious, twinkly beginning into a grand, cinematic finale.
On the whole, To The Treetops! is a remarkable debut album – Team Me have created a magnificent record that combines childlike wonder with a surprising sense of maturity. Epic without being overblown, emotional without being cloying, these songs will tug on your heartstrings as often as they’ll put a smile on your face.