With an utterly beguiling voice, Astrid Swan could well become the next sweetheart of audiophiles across the globe. The fact that it may take Astrid4, her fifth album is perhaps something that should be brushed under the carpet.
Hailing from Finland, and therefore part of the Scandinvasion I have blogged about quite a fair bit here on CWMB, Astrid4 is a collection of 8 songs that you will struggle to get out of your head for many reasons, but mainly because of one – the voice. Or to capitalise it, The Voice.
The first thing that hits you upon playing the album on your medium of choice is how warm and comforting Swan’s voice is. It’s like an old friend who you haven’t seen in a long time giving you a massive hug and not letting go. Opening track Nature Calling was for me the first thing that grabbed my attention. An almost swingy drum beat starts, with a piano and clarinet (I think!) playing together with the hook that the song is built around. Throughout however, Swan’s vocals are the heart and soul.
Four Months To Kill follows, and as with the rest of the album is fairly minimalistic in terms of it music, with drums and piano taking the song forward with this time brass instrumentation providing the accompaniment. It allows Swan to show off more of her vocal range, with a more wistful feel and higher register all being used to great effect.
As the album progresses you can feel the work and effort come through. The album took around two years from start to finish, and could therefore be described as a labour of love. Indeed, love brought a child partway through its gestation (see what I did there?). Love was dealt a blow however when friend and collaborator Otto Donner, who was to provide the horn arrangements and provided use of his Steinway piano, died. It is this that probably led to the more melancholy moments found. But those are few and far between, and it’s the moments of brevity that really lift this album to great, great heights.
Take Black Bear & A Hoofer as an example. It’s a wonderful, uplifting soulful and jazzy little number that gets your feet tapping and your head bopping. The piano is sparse, but it doesn’t need to be anything but. It could quite easily carry the song all by itself, but the brass arrangement cuddles and cossets it to a piece of pure pop perfection
Album closer Your Last Song is a song that could have been written about either the birth of her child or the loss of Donner. It perhaps showcases Swan’s voice more than any of the preceding seven tracks. From soul to passion, it encompasses everything about life. It’s also the most serious track found on the album, and you can hear that she put her heart and soul into it.
I’ve thoroughly enjoyed listening to Astrid4. It’s one of the albums that made the transition from iPod to iPhone within one listen. That’s really rather high praise in my book.
Astrid4 by Astrid Swan was released on 22nd April on Solti.