Album Review


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Amanda Mair: Amanda Mair
Amanda Mair
Amanda Mair
4 out of 5

star4-0

It was only a matter of time before Sweden's glorious pop scene led to a new generation of artists who had grown up listening to the likes of Robyn, José González, Club 8, and Lykke Li. Seventeen-year-old Amanda Mair's self-titled debut suggests that such next-gen acts are poised to put the powerful influences of their fellow countrymen to inspired use. A gifted musician and thoughtful singer, Mair and her collaborators, who include Acid House Kings' Johan Angergård and songwriter Roger Gunarsson, project a real sense of confidence in their craft, producing a collection of songs that are far better than what Robyn was singing as a teenager.

The set's two best tracks, "Doubt" and "House," both highlight the manner in which Mair and producer Philip Ekström incorporate '80s-era flourishes and singer-songwriter narrative conventions into their cutting-edge, contemporary pop. Especially impressive are how the phrasing of individual lines on "Doubt," along with Mair's ethereal, wispy delivery, draws favorable parallels to vintage Kate Bush. "Sense," the album's third single, ensures that Mair and her team are shrewd enough to avoid any potential pigeon-holing, as it picks up the pace substantially in comparison and finds Mair turning in a coquettish performance over a groove that sounds a whole lot like Hall & Oates's "Maneater."

Although Mair didn't have a hand in writing the album's songs, she's fully invested in her deliveries, which allows her to convey a distinct point of view. There's an obvious youthful bent to "You've Been Here Before" and opener "Said and Done," but the songs are hardly juvenile, reflecting a cautious perspective on love that doesn't resort to childish images or themes. Only "Skinnarviksberget," written by Pelle Carlberg, scans as perhaps too immature in its word choices, with lines about wanting "a decade of your precious time." That the gentle piano arrangement pushes the track in a maudlin direction doesn't help, but it's truly the only moment on the album on which Mair's collaborators seem unsure of how to engage with such a young performer. The rest of the time, Mair and Ekström are more sure-footed in their approach and seem dedicated to establishing a unique sound for the singer, and it's that ambition that makes Amanda Mair such a winning debut.

Label: Labrador Release date: June 5, 2012

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