Release Date: Feb 11, 2014
Record label: The End
Genre(s): Pop, Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Singer/Songwriter
On Animal Heart, Nina Persson does everything an artist with a career as lengthy and varied as hers could, and should, do on a solo debut album. Arriving five years after the last A Camp album and nine years after the last Cardigans album, these songs blend the countrified reflection of her former project and the sparkling pop of the latter, presenting it all with a much more overtly personal outlook than Persson has ever presented before. That her voice has an endearingly weathered quality here, with a rasp and vibrato that humanize the almost too-perfectly crystalline tone she had in the '90s and 2000s, only adds to Animal Heart's confessional bent and gives much-needed grit to vulnerable yet strong songs like "Catch Me Crying" and "Burning Bridges for Fuel.
It’s been a long wait but after nearly five years, Nina Persson returns. With The Cardigans on hiatus and her last solo project A Camp apparently shelved, it’s time for Persson to step into the spotlight alone – almost. Whilst A Camp was essentially a solo venture, both albums were heavily influenced by her guests. Sparklehorse’s Mark Linkous contributed songs to the first album, whilst the likes of The Smashing Pumpkins‘ James Iha, Joan As Police Woman and Persson’s husband Nathan Larson (of Shudder To Think) undoubtedly added flavour to Colonia.
When you’re more than twenty years into a career that has spanned three decades and two different groups it can be a bit difficult finding your own, distinct solo voice. At the very least, the confidence required to step out on your own in an attempt to make a declarative statement that announces your arrival as a relevant solo artist. Regardless of the quality of the new work itself, it will always be compared to your previous projects and held to a certain standard not generally associated with debut albums from solo artists who are otherwise largely unknown.
Even discounting Nina Persson’s scattered covers and one-offs, the Cardigans’ move toward singer-songwriterly maturity on Long Gone Before Daylight was a solo effort in spirit if not in personnel. And Persson’s two albums as A Camp—the first with the late Mark Linkous of Sparklehorse and the second with husband Nathan Larson—were solo in everything but the name. While the Cardigans were never all about Persson, she was the major draw; she got pegged as a heroine of coldhearted warm pop: summery melodies whose sun rays just might skewer anyone who basks.
Says Nina Persson of her first truly solo outing: 'Somewhere inside, I have a very clear clock, a gut feeling, that says what I think. I have forced myself to just keep going and follow only my gut with this album.' True to her word Animal Heart sees the former Cardigans singer (almost) complete the switch from the conflicted pop coquette of that band’s 1996 Shakespeare/Luhrmann aided hit ‘Lovefool’ to a fully-fledged earnest singer-songwriter. Although Animal Heart is arguably Persson’s third solo effort, coming after the two albums she released under the nom de plume A Camp, they were records which were to varying degrees defined by the personnel involved.
Cardigans frontwoman Nina Persson has had an impressive career to date – there’s few that would argue with that – but until now, there’s one avenue she’s not schlepped: releasing a solo record. Animal Heart is her debut lone-wolf full-length. She’s dropped singles by herself before, mostly for OSTs, such as a cover of “Losing My Religion” and a track for Reeves and Mortimers Randall & Hopkirk (Deceased) remake, but never gone the whole hog.