Amanda Mair | s/t (Labrador)

cd amandaMair’s self-titled debut LP is occasionally giggle-inducingly naive, but that’s part of its charm.

Dismiss Swedish teen pop sensations at your own risk. They have a tendency to begin their musical lives as relatively innocuous, fresh-faced chart acts, acquiring depth as they grow up, a phenomenon that’s familiar anyone who’s followed the career arcs of stalwarts such as Robyn and Lykke Li. Now, enter Amanda Mair. She exhibits a poise that belies her 18 years and lends credence to the idea that there’s definitely something in the akvavit up there in landet lagom.

Mair’s self-titled debut LP is occasionally giggle-inducingly naive and run through with a bit of bad teenage poetry, but that’s part of its charm. Reference her begging a lover—with a totally straight face, mind you—“Won’t you kiss me and spoon me the rest of my life?” in the piano ballad “Skinnarviksberget.” It’s enough to elicit a smirk, but also a smile at the straightforward, honest sentimentality. There’s youthful strength in “Before” and “What Do You Want,” standout tracks resplendent with the doleful yet playful goth-lite of the Cure’s more populist moments.

Undoubtedly, a major attraction here is the songwriting and production talents of Swedish indie pop kings and benevolent svengalis Johan Angergård and Philip Ekström. Their master plan lends an icy, pleasantly saturnine vibe (not to mention synths and echoing tom-tom rolls galore) to a cohesive, melodic set of tunes. Of course, none of that would matter if you gave a fine batch of songs to a tone-deaf croaker. Mair’s voice borders on wispy, but not without impact. She fills songs like the instant-hit trio of “Doubt,” “House,” and “Sense” with a sincere directness, and in the album’s quietest moments, such as the piano-led “You’ve Been Here Before,” beguiles and charms with a hushed confidence.

These are radio-ready songs could easily worm their way into a mainstream niche, but they also have a soul clearly delineating them from pure product. Mair is precocious and slightly unpolished; simultaneously awkward but commanding. She has a Kate Bush vibe, less in sound, but in style and raw talent, and possesses a keen eye on who to surround herself with. If her teenage debut is this solid, watch with anticipation as she matures, both as a person and as an artist. B | Mike Rengel

RIYL: The Mary Onettes; Club 8; the Cure circa Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me; Avril Lavigne, if she were an Urban Outfitters-aligned Swede

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