Astrid Swan

Poverina

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Astrid Swan hails from Finland, a country perhaps best known for its epic, costume-clad metal bands, but she certainly doesn't sound like it. Her English language debut, Poverina, croons like Rufus Wainwright, shimmers like Kate Bush, and glimmers with hints of Laurel Canyon artists like Joni Mitchell and Judee Sill; it's the kind of album, in other words, that will expand her reach beyond Finnish shores if only because it sounds familiar. Of course, one might wonder whether the world needs another Wainwright, Antony, or Regina Spektor, but Swan manages to carve out a niche for herself, perhaps in virtue of the fact that she draws from a host of interesting role models. Her fascination with Sill is loud and clear on the title track; like many of Sill's compositions ("Lamb Ran 'Way with the Crown" comes to mind), "Poverina" is lush with loping pianos, jaunty flutes, and airy background vocals. "Rock 'N' Roll Blonde" is a lovely mash-up of Tori Amos and Mitchell; it's all dark piano chords and thick orchestration, recalling From the Choirgirl Hotel and Court and Spark in the same instant. Lyrically, Swan is probably more akin to Wainwright than the Laurel Canyon set; the words themselves play second fiddle to Swan's flexible, clear, emotive alto. Like Wainwright, Swan is a charismatic performer; one is compelled to follow her, and she makes it easy to do so. And it's ultimately this charisma that makes Poverina a compelling debut. These are conscientiously made songs; they're intelligent, whimsical, and entertaining to boot. But they wouldn't be anything without Swan's skill as an actor and interpreter.

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