The Amazing: Gentle Stream (2011)

Any band calling themselves "The Amazing" are setting the bar a little high right off the bat.  Fortunately, the Swedish psych-folk-jam band is up to the task, steadily releasing moving, understated albums throughout the past decade.  I remain, er, amazed, that they haven't found a wider audience, while other acts mining similar territory -- particularly the War on Drugs, and maybe to varying extents the National, Fleet Foxes, and Bon Iver -- seem to have gotten more traction.

Their second release, Gentle Stream, is a gem, and as good a place to start as any.  Most of the album seems intent on updating an early 70s vibe, somewhere between folk and psychedelia and prog, shades of Nick Drake and pre-Buckingham/Nicks Fleetwood Mac and pre-Dark Side Pink Floyd.  Most of the tracks ramble on a bit, with room to build and jam.  Mostly lysergic and meandering, suited to background murmurings on a quiet morning, there are occasional hooks to keep you paying attention, though the album appears to be more interested in creating atmospherics than delivering pop immediacy.

The opening title track is terrific, a little more electric and energetic than most of what follows, some terrific raging guitars.  Though the vocals provide structure, they're used more as shading and instrumentation here and throughout the album.  Even at seven minutes, you could see this one stretching out forever.  The follow-up, "Flashlight," is gorgeous and infectious, with a hint of pop, and conjures up Nick Drake circa Bryter Layter.  Other highlights include the jazzy electric jams of "Dogs," and the hushed atmospheric beauty of "When The Colours Change."  Closing track "Ghosts" is another one with a almost catchy hook, at times almost suggest Jayhawks-like Americana-tinged pop; in contrast to much of the album, you can actually sing along with the chorus, though it retains the trippy, folky ambience.

Cranked up on the stereo, or played quietly through headphones, this one, like the rest of their catalog, makes for a dense, engaging yet soothing listening experience.

Here's a lovely take on "Flashlight," live in the studio:
...and the title track from the same performance:
Here's "Gone":