Rhythm & Views


It's always tempting, isn't it, to keep a CD in your collection for just a couple of favorite tracks? But, the bottom line is that one or two good tunes do not an excellent album make. Which brings us to the rather maudlin full-length debut of the Swedish alt-country band Amandine.

(Additional consumer information: This CD was released in November 2005, and a more recent EP, Leave Out the Sad Parts, was released last month.)

Two winning compositions highlight this otherwise uneventful set of 11 songs. The opener, "For All the Marbles," is a sad, minimalist meditation on emotional trauma, filled with quiet dollops of violin, piano and accordion. And on this one, Olof Gidlof's whispery vocals don't sound as slurred as they do on others. It's sweet and melancholy, and most of the following tracks seem to be variations on its themes and motifs.

The effect overall brings to mind, at the album's best, such artists as Iron & Wine, Dolorean and Will Oldham, and at its worst third-rate Bettie Serveert under the influence of too many Gram Parsons records. Where the mood wants to be stately and forlorn, it's more often meandering and sluggish.

Later in the CD, John Andersson's piano leads a not-so-soporific rhythm section through a hypnotic "Over the Trenches." It's a much-needed injection of energy that hints at what Amandine might be like in a live setting.

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