The idea of paradise holds an understandably privileged place in the modern mind. Visions of swaying palm trees and copiously sweet daiquiris is enough to send one spinning off into a fantasy cribbed straight from a Corona Commercial. Other Worlds supposedly came out of a visit Victoria Bergsman took to Hawai’i, and the record is cast as a reflection on paradise as state of mind.
“Dream,” then, serves as the emotional center of Other Worlds, gently lilting along with Caribbean flair as Bergsman reveals in her trademark lullaby voice, singing, ‘no one will believe us when we tell them what we see. But baby, I am here, and I know it’s not a dream.’ That dreaminess is all well and good, but Bergsman’s clear love for this place begs the question: what is she trying to get away from?
After all, paradise only holds the power over it does because of its contrast to our everyday life. We don’t seek it out for its own sake; it comes as such a relief to be there only in so far as it can be a tonic for what ails us. Bergsman comes closest to this seemingly necessary revelation on “Large,” a track that lives up to its title in terms of a cultivated expansiveness that subverts the laziness that dominates elsewhere. ‘Are you with me or not?’ the song begins, giving us a hint of the anxiety that we seek to escape in paradise. But the escape itself is still clearly the point, as Bergsman’s focus here is on the refrain of “Large,” ‘sometimes you also get a second chance, a second chance.’
Other Worlds may very well be that second chance, but Bergsman’s refusal to reveal the first failure that necessitated it is frustrating. Nowhere is this more true than on, “I Want You,” a relatively straightforward tropical love song that steps over into twee territory when Bergsman sings, ‘would you wanna go steady? Lemme know if you’re ready.’ Strangely though, Bergsman adds a purr of, ‘I’ve been waiting for this moment all my life.’ Whether or not consciously, the phrase invokes Phil Collins’ “In the Air Tonight,” a masterful song focused not on the beginning of a relationship, but on its end. The crashing drum machine of Phil Collins, when put up against the splashing waves of Other Worlds, can’t help but expose how simple minded this record insists on being.
And so, when “Dreams” is reprised as the closing track (this version titled, gag-inducingly, the “Coconut Cut”), the gentle bang of congo drums and noodling of acoustic guitars, slowly overtaken by the rolling waves, serves to reinforce the point that has already been made over, and over again: paradise is nice. And the evocation of paradise throughout Other Worlds is equally nice. The only problem is that everything, even Hawai’i, deserves more than one adjective.