For a band that started as Marius D Hagen’s one-man side project, Norwegian six-piece Team Me have grown very quickly into something much more worthwhile. Hagen originally intended to use the project to showcase material that didn’t fit in with his other bands. However, after the songs under the Team Me moniker gained the attention of national radio in Norway, Hagen turned his full attention to the band.
The multi-instrumental sextet haven’t looked back since, touring around the world with the likes of The Wombats and British Sea Power and recently picking up the award for ‘Best Pop’ at Spellemann Prisen (the Norwegian equivalent of the Grammys). Yet, while Team Me have gone down a storm in Norway, the UK market is a whole different proposition for the band and their twee indie pop. In fact, their debut album To The Treetops! will more than likely divide opinion, with Hagan’s vocals likely to be the main source of frustration.
Album opener Riding My Bicycle (From Ragnvalsbekken To Sorkedalen) captures both the band’s orchestral, soaring harmonies, while also giving a clear example of Hagan’s whiny and child-like vocals. Alternatively, Show Me sees Hagan deliver a less excruciating vocal over a thumping beat and glimmering guitar, as he sings: “I’m playing with a dangerous flame again/ And I’m as happy as can be when you are gone.” Musically, Team Me are impressive. They manage to intertwine multiple sounds with ease, creating a cacophony of noise that wouldn’t sound out of place on an Arcade Fire record. Hagan’s voice, though, is too often an obstacle to the overall enjoyment of Team Me’s debut LP.
When Hagan does control his vocal, the results are to be admired. Favourite Ghost is one such moment. The eight-minute track starts out as a wonderfully understated piece of atmospheric pop, before building towards a noisy climax that demonstrates the full force of the band when playing in unison. While the sweeping strings and vocal harmonies on Weathervanes And Chemicals make it another highlight, providing a joyful and exuberant orchestral grandeur. Dear Sister also shows Team Me’s impressive ability when it comes to layering songs, with a rumbling beat complemented by an intoxicating combination of shimmering guitar riffs and chimes.
Although some of the tracks on To The Treetops! do occasionally overstay their welcome, it’s hard not to get caught up in the good feeling that exudes from the album, as typified by the lengthily titled With My Hands Covering Both Of My Eyes I Am Too Scared To Have A Look At You Now, which makes full use of all six members of Team Me – with the chorus of boy-girl vocals giving the song an infectious euphoria. The album closer, Daggers, attempts to finish the album with the same gleeful gusto, yet it doesn’t have nearly the same impact.
It’s not hard to see why Norway has taken to Team Me. To The Treetops! is an album full of happy sounds, bursting with beautiful harmonies, swirling strings and jaunty melodies. There is also substance in the band’s introspective lyrical content, which balances nicely with the orchestral arrangements. While it’s an accomplished debut, To The Treetops! does have its weaknesses – Hagan’s irksome voice aside, the production is also erratic at times, with the hectic five-week recording process evident. Whether Team Me’s debut will be met with the same acclaim in the UK as it was in Norway is yet to be seen; however, To The Treetops! should ensure that this will not be the last we’ve heard of this Norwegian outfit.