Within minutes of the opening number on Team Me’s debut EP, it’s obvious the release is something special. The Norwegian outfit’s brand of heavily orchestrated indie-pop may borrow influences from Arcade Fire and Mercury Rev, but they throw enough of their own style into the multi-layered arrangements to not sound like mere copyists.
‘Weathervanes and Chemicals’ opens the EP with one of Team Me’s strongest offerings. Beginning with a cymbal-less drum line and a barrage of strings, it has a pompy nature which is hard not to compare to Arcade Fire, especially so once a glockenspiel tops off the already busying arrangement. The track’s verses have a soft air, with touches of Flaming Lips and Mercury Rev before the chorus kicks in. While the chorus is wordless, it features a choir of voices which are very much reminiscent of those which dominate Red Box’s cult 80s album ‘The Circle and Square’. It is almost impossible not to get swept along with the hugeness and feel-good vibes Team Me put across here. By the song’s closing moments, the choir is overlaid by lots of electronic noise, drums and something which may well be a melodica. Sounds messy when described, but in reality, it’s a three minute burst of sunshine. Opening with a very 80s keyboard line, ‘Come Down’ has a slightly punchier atmosphere in places, it’s basic structure fitting neatly into the indie-rock pigeonhole; to keep things interesting, Team Me beef up the arrangement with almost as many layers as ‘Weathervanes’. The huge vocals and strings still provide the heart of Team Me’s sound, but it’s the addition of tinkling percussion (or keyboards approximating the sounds of bells) which provide one of the best elements on a number which was already fairly complex.
‘Dear Sister’ is quirky and full of gorgeous harmony vocals. Its main riff has a circular feel which barely stops throughout the track. Ringing string sounds lead into to something which sounds like it has about fifty layers, overlaid with a choir. While not as hugely appealing as ‘Weathervanes’, it’s still a number which captures Team Me’s multi-layered sound well. ‘Me and the Mountain’ begins with a stronger drum line, settling for a more basic pounding approach – which fills the instrumental breaks and chorus sections; for the verses, Team Me offer more of their heavily keyboard and string led atmospheres. The overall vibe has echoes of Mercury Rev once again, but the occasional harder edges make it sound like a Mercury Rev number that has been influenced by the grandiosity of Arcade Fire – which is not necessarily a bad thing. The closing number ‘Kennedy Street’ finds Team me in a far more laid back setting begins as an echoing guitar riff provides the basis of the number, over which the vocal finds a place for an equally unfussy melody. A harmony vocal joins for the chorus which rounds out the sound beautifully, lending everything an atmosphere which would make Mercury Rev proud they’d passed on so much influence. For the close of the track, a piano joins the arrangement and the drum which has been softly pulsing breaks into a rumble for the last few bars, overlaid by a different collection of vocal sounds – and just when you think we’re going in for a big climax, Team Me stop dead, naturally leaving you wanting so much more.
Team Me worked hard at making a name for themselves prior to this release, playing no fewer than eight Norwegian festivals in the summer of 2010, plus various other gigs along the way – including a couple of support slots with British Sea Power and The Wombats in London in February and March 2011. This EP sounds like the work of a band who’ve strived to get their sound – it’s seriously good, maybe even amazing. If you’ve ever had a passing fancy for The Flaming Lips, Mercury Rev or Arcade Fire, you need this. It’s probably the most exciting record to come from the orchestrated indie-pop niche since ‘The Beginning Stages…’ by The Polyphonic Spree.