Review: Team Me – To the Treetops!
Published on March 15th, 2012 | Jonny Abrams
Norwegian six-piece Team Me were recently nominated for an award sponsored by the energy company Statoil, leading to keyboard player and co-singer Synne Øverland Knudsen to quit the band for “personal and political reasons”. This is a shame, because the prior dynamic has resulted in a genuinely stunning debut album.
To the Treetops! is so gosh darn dripping with glee-verging-on-twee that it will likely irritate ‘serious’ music folk half to death, but it is so harmonic, inventive, surprising, energetic and multi-layered that it falls well short of being cloying. Imagine if you will a melting pot of Mew, Polyphonic Spree, Arcade Fire, MGMT, Sufjan Stevens, Los Campesinos! and Zabrinski; yes, Team Me are that joyous, and really quite epic to boot.
Opener “Riding My Bicycle (From Ragnvaldsbekken To Sørkedalen)” lays the marker down with twinkly glockenspiel, piano, staccato strings, hand-claps ‘n’ harmonies, weighing in at eight minutes so as to leave you in know doubt of the symphonic odyssey that lies ahead. If all of that gives you a faint urge to run away screaming, know that To the Treetops! boasts more than enough electronic wizardry and strange punctuation – neither of which ever sound even remotely contrived, which is cause for celebration in these “just stick a dance beat on it, yeah?” times – to entrench these songs firmly in ‘brain food’ territory. Essentially, this is a highly evolved form of pop music.
There is so much going on across the whole album that picking highlights is not easily done; the fluttery flutes and strange titular bedfellows of “Patrick Wolf and Daniel Johns”, the clattering drums and snowy Sufjan strings of “Weathervanes and Chemicals” and the triumphant exhortation of “guess you fell in love with a state of mind” of “Dear Sister” all paint a thrilling picture, while the unexpectedly haunting “Favourite Ghost”, awe-struck “Looking Thru the Eyes of Sir David Brewster” (“hooray, hooray, hooray!”) and authoritatively stately closer “Daggers” prove Team Me to be way, way more than a mere one-trick pony.
The helium harmonies of Knudsen and front man Marius D Hagen work so beautifully together that it will be interesting to see how they manage to cope without the former from now on, but this is such an unusually rich and fully-realised first outing that you suspect they really could go anywhere next time round. “Mediocre band, perform mediocre songs for us!” they sing on the oddly wistful candy-floss rush of “With My Hands Covering Both of my Eyes I Am Too Scared to Have a Look at You Now”; Rocksucker for one has no problem with Team Me decreeing who and what constitutes ‘mediocre’, just as long as they keep fuelling our imagination with such glorious fare as this. If there’s a better debut released this year, we could be looking at quite the annus mirabilis.
Rocksucker says: Eight-and-a-Half Quails out of Ten!