Theresa Andersson, Street Parade

Published on April 24th, 2012 in: Current Faves, Feminism, Music, Music Reviews, Reviews |

By Chelsea Spear

Theresa Andersson’s 2008 breakthrough album Hummingbird, Go! was no small accomplishment. Serving as a one-woman band, Andersson spun hummable, soulful tunes brimming with hard-won optimism. The straightforward production and elaborate arrangements became even more impressive once listeners knew that she’d performed all the instruments herself, using effects pedals to create loops. (The video for her song “Na Na Na,” in which she demonstrates her one-woman band setup, attracted 1.2 million views on YouTube.) How do you top a left-field critical and artistic success like this?

Street Parade, Andersson’s latest album, calls to mind Richard O’Brien’s description of his Rocky Horror follow-up Shock Treatment: “It’s an equal, not a sequel.” Gone are the radio-ready, major-key songs. While Andersson draws from a wider sonic palette, including brass and woodwind charts and marching-band percussion, the songs are driven by sparer arrangements. The album could not be less similar to Hummingbird, Go! It also couldn’t be a better album.

The opening track, “Street Parade,” establishes Andersson’s contemplative mood. She conjures Mardi Gras parades in her adopted hometown of New Orleans both in music and lyrics. The staccato horn section that opens the album and the drum rolls that punctuate the chorus evoke the title event. Andersson’s lone vocal carries the melody, and she paints a clear-eyed, melancholic picture of the parade’s ephemeral nature: Glitter raining down, flowers hit the ground/tomorrow it all turns to ash.

On many of the songs, Andersson declaims her melodies over beds of horns or drumrolls. Her vocal solos and counterpoint harmonies with herself underscore her lyrical tales of solitude and searching for community. Her lyrics are disarmingly straightforward and ache palpably with the yearning of unrequited love, as on her first single “Hold On To Me”: Mistress won’t abate, I deserve a greater fate . . . The chanted, interlocking harmonies of the bridge extend the sonic references to Andersson’s southern home base, and the twinkling xylophones that kick in towards the song’s end give the song an eerie feel.

Andersson’s voice—a throaty, slightly vibrato’d mezzo that at times recalls Judy Garland—grounds many of the songs. The album seems to favor higher-range sonics. Coupled with the clean production and percussive qualities, the sound recalls that of 1970s John Cale and Brian Eno, but with the coked-up nihilism exchanged for a sense of longing and hope.

Though the album starts out on a sadder, more solitary note, it gains a fuller, happier feel as it works to an ending. On the pentultimate song “January,” the album’s parts work into a whole, as Andersson incorporates a violin and a muted trumpet straight out of a 1960s pop song into a traditional rock-band arrangement. Her lyrics—which depict a new friendship or creative outing—build upon the sense of possibility found on her previous efforts.

While Street Parade plays at the traditional album length of 11 songs, it seems to go by much more quickly. Andersson has mastered the art of leaving her audience wanting more. Based on the growth Andersson has shown on this album, I can’t wait to hear what she does next.

Street Parade is out today on Basin Street Records and can be ordered through iTunes, Amazon, and the label website. Check out Theresa Andersson’s website for more information.

Tour Dates:
Apr 27 Café Istanbul; New Orleans, LA
Apr 28 Preservation Hall; New Orleans, LA
May 04 New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival; New Orleans, LA
May 04 Howlin’ Wolf; New Orleans, LA
May 05 Tipitina’s (French Quarter); New Orleans, LA
May 30 Media Club; Vancouver, Canada
May 31 Triple Door; Seattle, WA
Jun 02 The Mission Theater; Portland, OR
Jun 04 Swedish American Hall; San Francisco, CA
Jun 07 Troubadour; Los Angeles, CA
Jun 10 The Bottletree; Birmingham, AL
Jun 12 The Southern; Charlottesville, VA
Jun 13 The Abbey Bar at Appalachian Brewing Co.; Harrisburg, PA
Jun 14 The Bell House; Brooklyn, NY
Jun 15 Tin Angel; Philadelphia, PA
Jun 16 The Hamilton; Washington, DC
Jun 17 TT the Bear’s; Cambridge, MA
Jun 19 Schuba’s; Chicago, IL
Jun 21 Relix Variety Theatre; Knoxville, TN
Aug 11 Jazzens Museum, Strömsholm; Stromsholm, Sweden

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