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Music to navigate a fjord by

A lush spectacle of audio imagery, on “Leave Out the Sad Parts,” the Swedish-born foursome traverse snowy peaks and icy fjords to build grandiose themes as large as the land of their birth. By Paul Olund
/ Source: msnbc.com contributor

Amandine's wispy melodies float along aimlessly like a dust storm on an arid plain. A lush spectacle of audio imagery, on “Leave Out the Sad Parts,” the Swedish-born foursome traverse snowy peaks and icy fjords to build grandiose themes as large as the land of their birth.

Geographically situated in Europe's arctic corridor, Amandine grafts inspiration from Sweden's drastic landscapes, slinging out rainy-day tunes about life and love on the far side of the Atlantic.

Wired on the constructs of earlier Scandinavian acts, Amandine moves cautiously, laying out intricate guitar riffs over singer Olaf Gidlof's balmy whispers. On “Firefly” he moans: “Dry, dry you teary weary eye, 'cause tonight our steps are homeward bound.”

Gidlof's eerie falsetto plays out nicely to the band's folky drone. As Amandine's most recognizable asset, he takes things slow, never rushing. On “Lovers Trial,” Gidlof sings, “You pulled me through/ You left me shaking/ For the lies I told and the bonds I've been breaking.” He treads lightly over lilting vocal melodies, careful not to weigh down his chorus lines.

On “Leave Out the Sad Parts,” Amandine keeps it simple: folk guitar, tinkly keys and a set of lyrics to move you. Such is the case on “Union Falls,” where Gidlof sings, “This isn't the time/ It's too late for words of labor and love as our frail union falls apart." Gidlof's dark meditations fit nicely over Andreas Hedstrom's twangy bass and John Andersson's synthesizer licks, creating a backdrop for the band's Euro-Americana that is delicate, yet diverse.

“Sparrow” offers the disc's most inspired arrangement, incorporating a smattering of keys, accordion and the upbeat pitter patter of drummer Andreas Bergqvist's snare. On the track, Gidlof's sadness is almost palpable: “Lift me up so I can see my love expire/ I've been lost so many times tonight I will retire.”

It's not just another love song though, as he explains, “You're a sparrow and a hawk/ When you ache and when you talk/ I'm a sliver of a man with two unsteady hands and two unsteady plans for a sparrow and a bleeding hawk.” A few finely placed arithmetic thrusts in the rhythm section offer some unexpected twists and turns before slinking into the closing tracks.

“Between what he's saying and what he regrets,” a hauntingly beautiful folk ballad, evokes stirrings of somber regret. Quiet tendrils of banjo drift in and out as Gidlof and Andersson battle for control to stunning effect (think Sufjan Stevens meets Gary Jules). The CD's searing sadness climaxes with Gidlof's autobiographical final words: “There are so many reasons/ there are too many steps between what he's saying and what he regrets.” And like a passing chill, “Leave Out the Sad Parts” ends as quietly as it began, leaving you feeling shaken and relieved, but a little bit empty too.

To learn more about Amandine, visit: http://www.amandinemusic.com/.