Sometimes I lose hope in the nostalgia I have for bands of my youth. I’ve left my 20s, and school feels so long ago—especially, somehow, college. Life is so different, in ways that I should have predicted but would never have been able to see at the time. Could I have known that this twee Norwegian band would still light up my soul eleven years later?
No band contains as much childlike wonder as Team Me. A seven-piece pop orchestra, they were a force of (lush, sacred) nature with an affectionate aesthetic. Yet, at one point, it seemed like they had lost the dream and grown up. Their debut album, To the Treetops, won Spellemannprisen (the equivalent of a Grammy) in 2011, and the band tinkered with extended plays before putting out their full-length follow-up. Only months later, in late 2015, they announced that they were disbanding to focus on other projects.
But bandleader Marius Drogsås Hagen never stopped believing. He continued writing for the band until they officially reunited in 2019. To fully close the circle on this moment in their career, Something in the Making, their first album in eight years, was released in spring of 2022.
Everything about their early sound fits comfortably in today’s indie pop standards, and is exemplified in this new record. The fabric of instrumentation conjures an early golden hour: crisp, clear and carrying a hopeful herald. Layered choruses and woodwinds and light acoustic guitar strums take us on the journey through the Garden of Eden with Team Me.
The band follows advice that I remember hearing from my (Catholic) middle school religion teacher: be childlike, not childish. Be curious, not immature. Value forgiveness over grudges. Hagen’s stories are whimsy distilled, and on Something in the Making, it boils over into a sense of splendor that itself has matured.
The greatest example, or perhaps the most memorable, of the band’s growth comes immediately on “Five Hour Flight Into the Light.” (Love a bold opener!) Hallmarks that remind me of “Patrick Wolf and Daniel Johns,” yet the song itself is rated PG-13 at the minimum. Depends on how much of the “pile of blood” is seen onscreen in this hypothetical film. (And before the stans aka clones of myself try to argue: I’m not trying to deny the existence of “Weathervanes and Chemicals,” but mature themes do not necessarily equal maturity.)
The first time I heard “Five Hour Flight,” before deciphering the lyrics much later, I thought this was a sweet song about flying home from New York on a morning flight—the percussion is delicate, and a xylophone twinkles like stars drifting away. The very next “Song for a Drummer” is (and “Green Crystal Rain on a Star” and “High Street” are) literally represented by the pastoral experiences of an eight-year-old in Team Me’s official lyric videos. Can you blame me for initially thinking the whole record was just sweet and fun?
But then the realization comes that this album mourns a girl. She “calls out” on “Into the WIld,” and is present just about everywhere else, sometimes only needing to appear in a single simple lyric. “Hello There” is so devastating that it reminds me of the idea of grief; was the track sung from her perspective? Contributors on Genius speculate that these comments reference a relationship that ended painfully; I disagree in the sense that it could mean that and so much more, and all things simultaneously. The oft-described “little” girl is family and apparition, both literally and not. She can bring joy or terror, all depending on the arbitrary context assigned for that particular tune. Put the tracks in another order, it would paint a brand new picture.
But the genre of the journey would never change. If, uh, you are brave enough to attempt to describe the genre of Team Me. They convey more of a feeling than any labels could deem. A feeling that resonates even more deeply over a decade later.