Album Review: Taken By Trees – Another Year EP

[Rough Trade; 2022]

Victoria Bergsman (aka Taken By Trees) is no stranger to covering a song from another artist. She gained a perk of popularity after her piano-led version of “Sweet Child O’ Mine” was used in the trailer to the 2009 film The Last House On the Left (as well as that year’s John Lewis Christmas advert). She also included a whimsical version of Animal Collective’s “My Boys” on her 2009 album East of Eden, and even tackled Wham’s famous hit “Careless Whisper” back in 2019. Her consistency is turning what are most often songs with widescreen range into small, personal arrangements, like she’s performing in a living room instead of a concert hall.

An EP of covers then isn’t too surprising for Bergsman. The intrigue comes perhaps from the choice of course material: a selection of songs from The Zombies lead singer Colin Blunstone; three from his debut solo album One Year and two from his follow up Ennismore. Another Year is Bergsman showing her gratitude to Blunstone “for being such an inspiration and for always pushing me to create something I believe is true and beautiful.”

In true Bergsman fashion, the versions on Another Year mostly sound only faintly like the originals. She deconstructs Blunstone’s tracks and builds them back up with different building blocks. Gone is the spunky and ragged arrangement of “She Loves The Way They Love Her”, now a low key, homely affair dressed in languid woodwinds and occasional sultry touches. “I Don’t Believe In Miracles” has all the energy zapped from it, light and sprightly piano now a dirge of sleepy brushed drums and breathy vocals. These kinds of melancholic arrangements are what one might expect from Bergsman: pretty and pristine; delicate and hushed; skeletal and careful. They will pique the interest of Blunstone fans (indeed, Blunstone himself has given his own two thumbs up to these versions), and provide a gentle welcome back to Taken By Trees fans, but won’t likely cause any ripples elsewhere in the music world.

Still, Another Year makes for a lovely enough little listen. At 16 minutes it’s far from demanding on your time or your mental capacity. It’s easy to let these five songs glide on by, but if you hone in on the lyrics and the track order, you can follow a sort of love story happening: a break up, a reconciliation, a new love interest. It may not have been intentional, but credit has to be given to Bergsman for trying to weave some kind of narrative into the tracklisting, offering another layer to the EP instead of just letting it sit as a collection of covers. 

And if you are into these kinds of pared down arrangements then you will enjoy the little details of the instrumentation. Though it doesn’t make much of a lasting statement, the equestrian tap of the drum machines and the sonic proximity of the woodwinds on “Time’s Running Out” are quite lovely. “Caroline Goodbye” is at risk of becoming aural wallpaper with supermarket tannoy vibraphone melodies, but thankfully gets lifted into a sad swirl of wordless voices during the chorus. It’s a problem that all the tracks have here: handsome enough to bring a sparkle of interest to any listener, but always at risk of just slipping into the background. The release of Another Year fittingly marks the 50th anniversary of the release of Blunstone’s debut album, and as a personal thanks to the legendary songwriter this EP is as nice a gift as anyone could want. It might take its place on the shelf before too long, but it is at the very least a pleasing enough welcome back to Bergsman after a four year absence.