Because of her cameo on Peter Bjorn and John’s “Young Folks,” Victoria Bergsman’s vocal talents have garnered some unlikely pop-culture attention. The song has been featured in everything from a Chanel fashion show to Kanye West’s Can’t Tell Me Nothing mixtape. Though she has received good reviews throughout her career — including the eleven years she spent at the helm of Stockholm’s Concretes — Bergsman could be dangerously close to being remembered as the girl who sang on “Young Folks” rather than as the writer and performer of songs as light and ethereal as the voice she uses to sing them. But Open Field, her debut album under the Taken by Trees moniker, shows her to be a songwriter of singular talents, able to turn a few simple notes into compositions of confounding complexity.
The album opens with a simple chord progression that Bergsman never strays far from, preferring to proscribe the entire song within a handful of notes. She uses her minimal approach to good effect; the songs on Open Field sound natural and lend focus to her lyrics, which are always straightforward and often repeated for emphasis. When Bergsman sings that “no one should be left without a hand to hold,” there is a siren-like quality in her delivery that resonates as a form of communication deeper and more personal than most pop music. Open Field is filled with these moments of incidental intimacy. Bergsman uses the metaphors of an ending relationship and the open field from the title to describe the apprehension she feels about stepping into the unknown and the vast artistic possibilities that are now open to her. Open Field is both hopeful and elegiac as Bergsman steps away from the demands of the Concretes to find her singular voice as an artist.
Helping her develop that voice are Bjorn Yttling and John Eriksson from Peter Bjorn and John; Andreas Soderstrom on guitar; and Electralane’s Verity Susman, who arranged the piano pieces and contributed backing vocals. Though Bergsman uses a wide variety of instruments here, they mostly provide background for voice. The instrumentation on Open Spaces is meant to be sparse, but there are points on the record where the Concretes’ more lush orchestration is missed. On “Lost and Found,” the Bergsman’s interaction with more prominent instrumentation serves as a reminder that before going solo, her vocals were well served by a larger ensemble.
Open Field finds Bergsman at a new stage in her career. Although many artists would have chosen to stay within the relative safety of the Concretes, she has decided to pursue a more singular and satisfying career path. It’s a promising album that shows Bergsman crafting songs of spare beauty and taking large steps toward the realization of her vision as a solo artist.