Greatest Hits compilation for a mainstream artist anyone? Yup, it’s that time of year again, where the great and the good are drowned out of the release schedule by the grating schmaltz. And I don’t mean the Christmas songs. Not that there’s anything wrong with anthologies in principle of course, but from here on in, until the end of the January sales you’re going to be surrounded by them the moment you switch on your television or enter the high street.

Thankfully there’s still hope, for which we have FatCat records to thank. And that’s because Amandine’s album, This Is Where Our Hearts Collide, is pretty marvellous. The fact that the Swedish group, who formed in 2001, used to be called Wichita Lineman certainly goes some way to explain their influences, although it doesn’t really explain their sound. When they signed to FatCat, they changed their name to avoid the inevitable copyright infringement minefield. Their line-up hasn’t remained constant, and you can read their website bio if you want to know the whole story, but right now they’re John Andersson (piano, glockenspiel, and accordion), Andreas Bergqvist (drums and percussion), Olof Gidlöf (vocals, guitar, banjo, and trumpet) and Andreas “Bosse” Hedström (bass, back-up vocals, and theremin).

And so, to the music. For All the Marbles is the opening track, and an organ seeps into earshot, propelled by gentle, ringing guitar strumming. The opening line is the titular; “This is where our hearts collide”, so it’s clear that this track is going to define their sound somewhat. Olof’s firm, but gentle vocals backed up by Andreas’ more fragile voice. A viola is introduced mid-way to the melodic number, bringing weight and depth, going around and under the other instruments as if i were literally sewing the music up. It’s not some amazing new sound you’ve never heard before, but it’s a beautiful combination of elements, and immediately creates a mood that’s wintry yet warm. Counting Crows meets Husky Rescue perhaps. A European Magic Numbers, even.

Track 2, Halo, probably not inspired by the sublime videogame, but just maybe, is a slow burning number, but clearly demonstrates the bands mastery of melody and harmony. Some will find the pace puts them to sleep, but for the rest of us, it’s music to dream to. Boosted by a bittersweet string quartet, the positive feelings you had for the band after track one have at least tripled.

Eleven tracks make up the album, and they all make a valid contribution on their own terms, whilst sustaining a singular atmosphere at the same time. Blood and Marrow is a mysterious, reserved song about family ties:
“Father oh father you’re falling from grace, you can never rebuild what you once had replaced.”

Over The Trenches, at the centre point of the album, is a shimmering high point. The chorus begins with the line; “the fear of going under”, yet almost as an inverse reaction, the music reaches an uplifting high point. Good songs always have that blend of sweet and sour, and Amandine understand this intrinsically.

Sway is the track that sounds closest to a single choice. Although it takes a while to build, when it finally does it’s a wondrous thing. The Amandine sound is a fragile one, and open. Lose any existing element and it would be too naked, add anything else and it would be too much. You’ll need to listen with care.

Final track, Heart Tremors, actually one of the more upbeat moments, although in truth that’s probably not saying much. Gentle and restrained melancholy is certainly the musical soup of the day here, but it’s nice to see the bridge and chorus take the album out with a warm positive sensation in its heart. Indeed, This Is Where Our Hearts Collide is the kind of album that can help you through winter, so stock up now while there’s a crack of daylight left.

Amandine
This is Where Our Hearts Collide (2005)

Genre: Indie Folk Pop
Record Label: FatCat

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