(The End Records)
I admit it. I’ve been a closeted Cardigans fan for years. It’s hard to resist the infectious pop hooks, the sardonic flair and the quirky Black Sabbath covers — all expertly delivered by the inimitable Nina Persson. While not the most technical vocalist, Persson’s wispy tones brim with a child-like innocence, adding a warm, familiar sheen to virtually everything she touches. And it’s been effective for both sprite pop songs and hazy ballads alike.
Animal Heart is a heady mix of low-key pop, ‘80s new wave stylings and singer-songwriter introspection. As a whole, it’s a bit of a mixed bag, lacking the sheer pop brilliance of Persson’s Cardigans work, while avoiding too much creative risk at the same time. The opening title track has a haunting, melodic refrain that insidiously snakes its way into the psyche. “Burning Bridges For Fuel” and “Clip Your Wings” are safe, middle-of-the road, soft rock songs, no more, no less.
Things do pick up in the sexy, hypnotic “Jungle” and the bouncy “Food For the Beast,” where Persson shines while conveniently furthering the animal metaphors. While “Forgot To Tell You” is not one of the album’s best tracks, Persson’s silky, but earnest tones come through loud and clear, making it a standout for the performance alone. “The Grand Destruction Game” fares well with its swirling, circus-like feel and clever lyrical twists; and the album’s closer ‘This Is Heavy Metal” is a whimsical anti-ballad that could sit well within the Cardigans canon.
Nina Persson’s place in pop is ironclad. Maybe next time out, she’ll play to those strengths more and deliver the killer hooks that we love her for. (Jim Kaz)