Thursday, June 7th, 2012
Review of Amanda Mair’s Amanda Mair
Kjell B PerssonIt’s not unfair to say that Labrador Records has something of a “house sound”, and not just for the Swedish accents. With acts like The Radio Dept., Acid House Kings, and Sambassadeur on their roster, they’re a reliable source for warm, fuzzy, indie pop-ish sounds and so when they announce a new signing, it’s usually worth paying some attention – even when on paper the artist doesn’t seem have much in common with the rest of their roster. Or in the case of Amanda Mair, especially when. Not many labels would sign a 15-year old singer-pianist on the strength of her raw talent – there weren’t even any demos – but Labrador did just that in 2010. And having given her a couple years to hone her craft before sending her into the studio with Philip Ekström of The Mary Onettes and the result – her self-titled debut, released in Sweden in February and in North America this week – has proven worth the wait.
It’s hard not to want to use Mair’s youth as a qualifier for offering praise, but the fact is that Amanda Mair would be an accomplished collection of polished pop and piano balladry from an artist of any age. Mair does just fine on the latter with a direct, unadorned presentation – her voice is innately suited to tugging at the heartstrings – but Ekström deserves credit for making the former so sonically dense and interesting without overwhelming her. The choice of a lightly but distinctly ’80s production style is an interesting one, considering those years were a distant memory before Mair was born, but it really does work – for those old enough to remember the era, the sounds are familiar but Mair’s presence is so fresh that it never feels deliberately retro or nostalgic.
Her lyrics may come across a bit vague – one would hope she doesn’t yet have the sort of life experience that would allow her to pen truly pointed, emotional songs – but that gives them a sort of universality that serves her well and the delivery is well-balanced between earnest open-heartedness and knowing wisdom. I suspect every review of this record closes with some sentiment along the lines of how good she already is and how much better she’ll surely get as she gains more experience, but it really is true. And while Mair’s upside is astonishing, don’t assume that Amanda Mair is all about potential – she’s already arrived.
There’s a stream of the album available at MTV, but it’s geoblocked to the US. Americans, have at it. Everyone else, just trust me.
Video: Sigur Rós – “Varúð”
Denmark’s Efterklang premiered songs from their forthcoming album Piramida in performance with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra at the end of May, and a video of one of them has been released to get people excited for the new set of songs, due out this Fall.
The Guardian wonders what’s up with the women who helped define the synthy sound of 2009: La Roux is supposed to have a second album out this year but there’s been nary a peep out of Elly Jackson in ages; Ladyhawke traded a lot of the keys for guitars on her just-released second album Anxiety – there’s interviews with Pip Browne at The New Zealand Herald and The Music; and Little Boots just debuted a new video taken from her second album which, while it clearly exists, has yet to have any specifics revealed.
Video: Little Boots – “Headphones”
Stream: Hot Chip / In Our Heads
Pitchfork checks in with The xx, who’ve announced their second album Coexist will be released on September 11. They’ll preview the new material when they play a sold-out show at The Phoenix on July 28.
Most pleased to hear that Richard Hawley’s latest Standing At The Sky’s Edge will be getting a North American physical release on August 28 – it’ll be available digitally next week – because I was getting close to biting the bullet and paying the $40+ for the import vinyl. Yay procrastination! And yay for a sample track from the album to download. Now let’s just get some touring happening over here…
Neil Halstead’s new solo record Palindrome Hunches – originally targeted for an August release – will now be out come September 11, but to make up for the delay a first MP3 has been made available for listening.
Muse have announced a September 17 release date for their new record The 2nd Law. The accompanying trailer does not inspire confidence, as it would appear to be a bombastic concept album about peak oil.
Trailer: Muse / The 2nd Law
Interview and NME both mark the 40th anniversary of David Bowie’s The Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Stardust; the former with an interview originally published in March 1973 and the latter with an interactive look at the album cover.