THE AMAZING – The Amazing (Subliminal Sounds)

The Amazing are something of a Swedish supergroup, comprising members of Dungen, Anna Jarvinen, Granada and Sogor & Swing. Although these bands might not be that familiar to a UK audience – except, perhaps, for Dungen – they are all well-respected in Sweden, and so in their homeland this band is not considered to be arrogantly named. While Dungen are mostly known for their penchant for medieval tunes, The Amazing are much more grounded in the current century, and produce a lovely blend of pop, folk, prog, psyche, and jazz, all coming together in a whole which never seems to favour any one genre. ‘The Kirwan Song’ opens the album with a peon to Fleetwood Mac guitarist Danny Kirwan, and in the style of that band’s ‘Oh Well’ is split in half into vocal and instrumental sections, with the latter featuring some fine Mac-inspired guitar-work. ‘Dragon’ is a dreamy ballad hung around a captivating hook from guitarist Reine Fiske, while ‘Beach House’ is a reincarnation of Nick Drake, both in the gently picked guitar and the yearning vocals. ‘Code II’ couldn’t be more different, with its spacey vibe and heavy guitar chords, we are well and truly into progressive rock territory here. The vocals are buried under a wall of sound, as the guitar drives the track forward through washes of keyboards to culminate in a lyrical solo. ‘Deportation Day’ brings us back to earth with a delicious pop song, complete with chiming guitar and catchy tune. ‘Is It Likely’ takes a jazzy beat and lays it under a simple, folky melody to give another instantly likeable song, and ‘Romanian’ is another stripped back folk song performed almost solely by singer/guitarist Christoffer Gunrup, aided here by keyboardist Erik Malmberg. Just as you are drifting off to the gentle sounds of ‘Romanian’, ‘Dead’ arrives to wake you up with a vengeance. Easily the heaviest track on the album, it starts of with some crushing guitar chords, before adding some great reverbed vocals and then settling down for a Neil Young-inspired jam, complete with a trademark solo, before segueing seamlessly into the eleven minute ‘Had To Keep Walking’. This bluesy piece slowly builds up from its laid-back opening, through a languid guitar solo, then morphs into a spaced-out psychedelic bridge, before returning to the main song as if nothing had happened, and then slowly fades out with some exquisite twins guitar-work. The simple fact that the band can attempt something like this and not make it sound weird or out of place shows the absolute confidence that they have in their music. The album closes with another folky effort in ‘The Strangest Thing’, which, as good as it is, is something of a comedown after the superb ‘Had To Keep Walking’. For once purchasers of the vinyl edition will lose out, as it does not include Gunrup’s three solo efforts, but even without them this is still a superb debut album which I hope will get the recognition that it so richly deserves. No need to report this band to the Advertising Standards Authority – they are perfectly entitled to their name.