The Amazing

Rock lives yet. The Amazing are a Swedish alternative rock quintet active since the late 2000s. They represent an ever-receding pocket of music, offering a no-frills, minimally processed sound conspicuously lacking in pop-hooks, yet undeniable all the same. With unwavering attentiveness to quality riff-writing, The Amazing stray from the limelight and simply let the art do the talking. Masters of blending layers of instrumentation, they never shy from classic rock arrangement, offering a refreshing mixture of electric and acoustic guitar, piano, tasteful harmony and unobtrusive drumming. The focus is on feeling; a palpable ethos cruising gently by at a comfortable pace, nothing forced, nothing contrived. Singer Christoffer Gunrop conveys an honest reverence for melancholy, without seeming downcast or depressing. Elegance in defeat – a gentle reminder that sadness can be pretty too.

I clued in to The Amazing with 2015’s break-out LP “Picture You”, an hour-long journey of conviction and apology spanning bedroom lullaby to muscular epic. In true rocker form, the instrumentation was reportedly recorded in a 3-day frenzy; you’d never know it though, given the air-tight precision only delivered by those of proficient musicianship. A mere 15 months later followed “Ambulance”, a quiet and meditative offering in 8 movements. With the exception of sore-thumb black sheep track “Blair Drager” (skip it), the album  whisks you into a soft carpeted living room with clashy decor, dim lighting, and 5 friends basking in the complementary myriad of each instrument’s sound. If ever I stop obsessing over these two, it’s comforting to know there’s many more earlier works waiting to help keep the flickering flame of rock and roll alive.

Favourite track: Circles… now that’s how you apologize

Empire of the Sun

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Empire of the Sun are an Australian duo comprised of singer Luke Steele and Nick Littlemoore (also one half of catchy electro group Pnau). Thrust into the spotlight upon release of 2008’s amazing instant-hit “Walking on a Dream” (one of my most-listened to songs of all time), these guys are the maestros of fantasy-flavoured bubblegum pop; Hits that you’d feel embarrassed singing along to if it weren’t for the fact everyone around you was wholeheartedly doing the same. The only thing more ridiculous than their album covers and outfits is the music they conjure, but it doesn’t matter because you’ll find yourself hip-thrusting regardless. Empire of the Sun use a simple instrumentation palate of airy synths, 4-on-the-floor drum programming, and processed guitars, but what makes them so special is the poised and forefront lyrics, melodies, and unmistakable timbre Steele boasts.

Taking their sweet, sweet time with things, Empire of the Sun have put out 2 solid albums in 6 years: 2008’s debut “Walking on a Dream”, and this year’s “Ice on the Dune”, a sonic complementary victory-lap. Update: The sing-song circus act has returned with LP “Two Vines”, another fist-pumping collection of 14 anthemic tunes (get moving to Friends).

Favourite track: Walking on a Dream… Heart-conquering bliss.