2016 was an unusually good year for R&B, but it was also a great year for indie rock. One of my favorites from 2016 came from an interesting Swedish band called The Amazing. The Amazing makes contemplative psychedelic rock with bits of jazz and prog rock thrown in for good measure. Not a lot is known about them (by me) like most new music I hear nowadays, I stumbled upon them on Spotify and fell in love as soon as I heard “Moments Like These”.
That song came from Ambulance is the band’s fifth album. It was recorded live in a Stockholm studio. One of the band’s distinctive sonic signatures, the sound of three guitars builds not a wall of sound, but more a gate as other textures float in and out with a light and almost casual airiness about them. Its that kind of intricate production coupled with lead vocalist Christopher Gunrup’s earthy vocals that make The Amazing a sonic treat.
For those who appreciate sonic textures, Ambulance is packed with an expansive sound but manages to be human scaled thanks to Gunrup’s warm vocals. In many ways it reminds me of both Ride and The Church, two bands who know a thing or two about atmospherics.
Often secretive about their recording processes or lyrics, much of Ambulance was improvised with little practice before recording. Instead of resulting in meandering formless songs, they are tightly structured usually around a drum beat or a piano melody.
“Blair Drager”, one of the drum-centric songs is mid tempo and is the fastest track here.
But it’s in the mid-tempo where Ambulance excels. “Divide” and “Through City Lights” might showcase Grunp’s voice, but its the folksy surprise of “Moments Like These” that is my favorite Ambulance moment. Although somewhat atypical of the albums 7 other tracks, it’s a beautiful if unintentional tribute to Nick Drake.
Ambulance is reflective, dreamy and atmospheric all while being upbeat and positive in it’s overall tone. Those are rare attributes these days where many reflective albums tend to have a dark sheen about them. That of course is not all bad, but it’s nice to hear an uplifting alternative to help brighten grey winter days.