The Amazing

Picture You

Written by: TL on 12/03/2015 14:30:24

Swedish quartet The Amazing have already been around following their first two albums, making it as far as a performance on Late Night with David Letterman in 2013. With the recent release of "Picture You", the band arrives at their third full length since debuting in 2009, which provides the listeners with both laid-back, super pleasant retro-pop melody - bringing to mind old Simon and Garfunkel songs - and with explorative neo-psych jamming reminiscent of something you could've heard on a recent Kurt Vile record for instance. As a back to back listen, the album is ambitious on behalf of its listener's attention, clocking in at over an hours worth of length, with roughly every other track stretching out across seven to nine minutes, while the remaining sit at more moderate lengths around the five minute mark.

The arrangements seem to revolve around the establishing of a contemplative back and forth between dreamy, clean guitar hooks and the softly sung male lead vocals, which is then gradually and patiently fleshed out with lingering organ notes, occasional female backing harmonies and various reverberating effect-laden figures from the second guitar. The opener "Broken" provides a welcoming example, quickly inviting the listener in via its signature and then spacing out in a very harmonious mood, yet maintaining its drive past the three minute mark, where it eventually breaks down into a slower, even floatier second act. With the following title track though, which is almost twice as long, you begin to sense that the band is likely on a mission to make you lose track of time, and as is indicative for the record that the soundscape often changes so much within a single song, that you will be surprised when checking and realising that you're still listening to the same track.

As such, the first - more conventionally vocal-driven - half of the track "Picture You", is a highlight of the album, yet while the second, entirely instrumental half, is also an enjoyable listen, whether the two feel sufficiently related to belong in the same song is a subject for debate. It's never a problem here, but in the soon to follow "Safe Island", the departure from the main song into an eerie, rhythm-less feedback-fest - that ends with a screeching tinnitus noise - makes you wonder who will think of the record with the thoughts: "oh man, that reverberating pedal-noise during those last three minutes of Safe Island was so great, I gotta go back and listen to that". Things turn out better in the relaxed "Fryshusfunk", which has a thick bass line that primes you to take it easy in the early going. Here things segue in an exotic, spiralling way, up to a lengthy exchange between distorted guitar and the organ, channelling pure, trippy 60's era exuberance. The movement here is simply more dynamic and at the same time cohesive.

The success rate of The Amazing's longer excursions is a bit on and off then, and the fact that they continue to circle back to the longer song format gives "Picture You" a double-nature as an album. Individually, a shorter song like "Broken" evokes such well-crafted euphony that everyone should at least be immediately convinced of the band's capability for pleasing the ear like few others. That being said, critical voices will likely point out the relative weakness of the hooks and get into arguments with neo-psych believers about the merit of some of the deroutes taken on the longer tracks. The album speaks occasionally to everyone, and is worth checking out for that, but it demands a patient disposition to be appreciated as a worthwhile front-to-back listen, and lacks that overall, engaging feeling of "everything is here for a very good reason", to be considered for the higher end of our rating scale.


Download: Broken, Fryshusfunk, Picture You
For The Fans Of: Kurt Vile, Real Estate, Beach Fossils

Release date 16.02.2015

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