Last Amanda

Last AmAndA

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Never let it be said that Sweden isn't highly diverse when it comes to music. The Nordic country is famous for the bubblegum Europop of ABBA and Ace of Base, but Sweden is also known for its abundance of avant-garde jazz and its seemingly endless supply of underground death metal and black metal bands. Talk about extremes! But Last AmAndA is a Swedish band that doesn't fall into any of those categories; they aren't ABBA any more than they're Dark Funeral or In Aeternum. Instead, this self-titled debut album favors a polished, tuneful style of alternative rock that draws on influences ranging from U2 and R.E.M. to Live. The U2 comparison doesn't come about because lead vocalist Marten Lårsson sounds like Bono. Actually, Lårsson's vocal style is best described as a combination of R.E.M.'s Michael Stipe, Live's Ed Kowalczyk, and post-grunge; Lårsson would fit right in if he were asked to make a guest appearance on an album by Creed, Default, Portable, or Incubus. Nonetheless, U2 has definitely affected Last AmAndA's songwriting, and the lead guitar playing shows a strong awareness of the Edge. Despite the presence of those U2, R.E.M., and Live elements, Last AmAndA projects an identity of its own on this CD (which the band co-produced in Los Angeles with Dave Holdredge, a skillful studio wizard known for his work with Hoobastank, Limp Bizkit, Incubus, and Saliva, among others). Last AmAndA's work isn't innovative or groundbreaking, but it's enjoyably solid -- and the Swedes bring a strong sense of craftsmanship to melodic yet rockin' items like "Unforgettable" (not to be confused with the Nat King Cole favorite) and "Can't Stand Myself." Last AmAndA's first album falls short of superb, but it's a sincere, likable effort that's worth hearing if one likes his or her alt-rock on the melodic side.

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