Release Date: Feb 17, 2015
Record label: Partisan
Many songwriterly records are now presented as musical soap operas, with the romantic and personal disasters that led to the creation of the deep-blue tunes dissected with forensic detail during the pre-release publicity campaign. That sort of heart-on-sleeve business is not Christoffer Gunrup’s cup of cocoa. There are more than subtle hints along the way that some interpersonal trouble lurks behind these deeply melancholy songs (take the slow-burning "To Keep It Going": the mournful mantra appears far too lonesome to venture beyond its relentlessly repeated - and sublimely sad - central appeal for more time or maybe another chance).
The Amazing's last album was entitled Gentle Stream, and that title evokes the Swedish group's aural aesthetic reasonably well. Their sound is unhurried, detailed, and most of all, incredibly beautiful. Picture You, the band's excellent new album, succeeds because like Gentle Stream, the songs are built on a foundation of swirling, intertwining guitars, and unlike anything before it, they explore a myriad of new directions.
Starting with their self-titled first album in 2009, the Amazing quietly built up an impressive body of work with a sound that came from a meeting of flowing psychedelic rock, gentle '70s soft rock, and just a tiny bit of cosmic folk. Their 2015 album, Picture You, is the culmination of all their work, with a combination of wonderfully rich arrangements, inspired playing and singing, and a batch of lengthy songs that both warm the heart and expand the mind. Christoffer Gunrup's vocals have an intimate beauty throughout; he possesses the kind of voice that draws the listener in closer until it feels like he's whispering directly in your ear with one arm around you for a comforting hug.
It could be seen as a massive act of over-confidence to name your band The Amazing. They’re partially a Swedish supergroup – Christoffer Gunrup was originally in Granada whilst Reine Fiske and Fredrik Björling are best known for their work in Dungen. However, that moniker isn’t entirely unjustified considering their past form. 2009 saw them bring out a rich and challenging self-titled debut, which they followed up a couple of years later with the equally melancholic Gentle Stream.
The Amazing’s Christoffer Gunrup would probably make fast friends with Mark Kozelek. At least to the extent you can predict anyone would. Not only is Picture You one of the surprisingly rare rock records of recent vintage drawing legitimate, discernible inspiration from Led Zeppelin, Gunrup just so happens to be influenced by the same exact songs Kozelek namechecked on his spellbinding autobiography "I Watched the Film ‘The Song Remains the Same’".
The title of Picture You, the Amazing’s new record, implies a sort of clarity, coming to a point where things are seen clearly. Maybe it’s a command to do as much. Either way, it becomes misleading once you hear the music on this album. This is not because the band’s expansive sonic textures are unclear, even as they invite adjectives like “hazy” and “gauzy”, but more because they don’t travel a straight A-to-B, problem-to-solution arc.
On Picture You, The Amazing incorporates traces of psychedelic rock, ’60s pop, and even twee, mostly in the soft-spoken, accented vocals of lead singer Christoffer Gunrup. If that all sounds like chaos, it isn’t. The Amazing has a plan, and they’re rewarded for following it to its furthest conclusion. Almost every track on the band’s third album finds itself on the far side of the five-minute mark, and that’s because no one in The Amazing is in any kind of rush.
The AmazingPicture You(Partisan)3.5 out of 5 stars Listening to the Swedish band The Amazing is akin to taking a trip back into the mid-80s. That was an era when groups such as the Church, the Mighty Lemon Drops, the Cocteau Twins and others popularized a style that floated on a bed of intertwining guitars, breathy vocals and wistful soundscapes. Earlier touchstones are 60s era Pink Floyd and the early Moody Blues whose trippy sounds fell between space rock, psychedelic pop, trance and shoe gaze.
You know about the big releases each week, but what about those smaller albums which may have passed underneath your radar. Don’t miss out on the smaller, lesser-known gems which might become some of your favourites. We’ve rounded up six of the best new album releases from this week: discover the young and dumb punk of Dune Rats, The Monochrome Set’s Who-like crescendos and more.