Amandine: Solace in Sore Hands

Comforting ballads of the American West from a group of accomplished Swedish musicians (who else?)


Solace in Sore Hands

Label: Fat Cat
US Release Date: 2007-06-05
UK Release Date: 2007-04-16

"Union Falls", the best song off Amandine's 2006 EP, Leave Out the Sad Parts, thrills and cracks with broken country grandeur. In the chorus --"our frail union falls apart" -- the Swedish group finds that rare blend of melody and feeling that sticks, fast. Nothing on the group's sophomore LP, Solace in Sore Hands, is as immediate as that song, but the album's at least got a consistent outlook: desolation with soft folk overtones of the American West rule the day here.

The press materials for Solace in Sore Hands advise us that the lyrical and emotional content is informed by the modern Swedish authors Sara Lidman, Torgny Lindgren, and Lotta Lotass and their thematic portrayals of hardship and stoicism. Have to confess, my Goodreads bookshelf doesn't contain any of those authors, but I'll take their word for it, because there is something literary about the constructed world of Amandine's songs. It's not unique, and it's not immediately obvious, but in these gentle compositions is a layered quality that points to a considered, referential quality. It's nothing like the novelistic quality of Sufjan Stevens, but Amandine convey the sense that their songs are about something, even if you're not always sure that that is.

"Silver Bells", for example, trills in its first chorus, "Honey, distance brings us closer / Honey, hardship makes us stronger". The next time it comes around, the statement's converted into a question -- "Who says distance brings us closer?" -- and the poignant, accordion-driven ballad effectively conveys the passage of time and its accompanying doubt. These are the melodies Amandine traffics in: introspection, sometimes depressive, with a meandering melodic construction that communicates space, that proceeds on its own leisurely time.

The band's best songs shine with small-scale wonders. "Chores of the Heart" expands the palette of the record, its crashing guitars a healthy outlet for catharsis; the chorus heads up, and up, rising to a plaintive melody. "Inside" is like a disembodied Annie song -- "Find me inside every heartbeat" -- the warm strings and sparse keyboards perfect fodder for some indie remix hit of the year, like Sia's "Breathe Me". And though over the course of the disc, the Americanisms of the music come to seem a little affected, "Better Soil" gets it right. The piano accompaniment opens to a comforting, shrugging ballad, and the central conceit, "I could come to be a grain of sand", just works.

The plucked banjo and guitar sounds on Solace in Sore Hands are not really country, because the pitching is too fragile, too breaking-point; and the instrumentation, most of the time, thankfully lacks that characteristic jangle. Still, a number of songs seem to just float by -- the choruses on "Iron Wings", "Secrets" and so on are pleasant enough, but fail to catch fire. "Shadow of Grief" has a pretty, plaintive folk-violin melody, but the songwriting's so conventional (drop texture in verse, rekindle chorus) we're left wishing for a bit more excitement.

Amandine still have something, some spark that reaches strong to the listener and says, "We matter". But they've yet to reach the level of sophistication of an artist like Adem, the kind of intimate yet powerful folk voice to which they aspire. Solace in Sore Hands is good, but I think Amandine can do even better.







A Fresh Look at Free Will and Determinism in Terry Gilliam's '12 Monkeys'

Prof. Susanne Kord gets to the heart of the philosophical issues in Terry Gilliam's 1995 time-travel dystopia, 12 Monkeys.


The Devonns' Debut Is a Love Letter to Chicago Soul

Chicago's the Devonns pay tribute the soul heritage of their city with enough personality to not sound just like a replica.


Jaye Jayle's 'Prisyn' Is a Dark Ride Into Electric Night

Jaye Jayle salvage the best materials from Iggy Pop and David Bowie's Berlin-era on Prisyn to construct a powerful and impressive engine all their own.


Kathleen Edwards Finds 'Total Freedom'

Kathleen Edwards is back making music after a five-year break, and it was worth the wait. The songs on Total Freedom are lyrically delightful and melodically charming.


HBO's 'Lovecraft Country' Is Heady, Poetic, and Mangled

Laying the everyday experience of Black life in 1950s America against Cthulhuian nightmares, Misha Green and Jordan Peele's Lovecraft Country suggests intriguing parallels that are often lost in its narrative dead-ends.


Jaga Jazzist's 'Pyramid' Is an Earthy, Complex, Jazz-Fusion Throwback

On their first album in five years, Norway's Jaga Jazzist create a smooth but intricate pastiche of styles with Pyramid.


Finding the Light: An Interview with Kathy Sledge

With a timeless voice that's made her the "Queen of Club Quarantine", Grammy-nominated vocalist Kathy Sledge opens up her "Family Room" and delivers new grooves with Horse Meat Disco.


'Bigger Than History: Why Archaeology Matters'

On everything from climate change to gender identity, archaeologists offer vital insight into contemporary issues.


'Avengers: Endgame' Culminates 2010's Pop Culture Phenomenon

Avengers: Endgame features all the expected trappings of a superhero blockbuster alongside surprisingly rich character resolutions to become the most crowd-pleasing finalés to a long-running pop culture series ever made.


Max Richter's 'VOICES' Is an Awe-Inspiring and Heartfelt Soundscape

Choral singing, piano, synths, and an "upside-down" orchestra complement crowd-sourced voices from across the globe on Max Richter's VOICES. It rewards deep listening, and acts as a global rebuke against bigotry, extremism and authoritarianism.


DYLYN Dares to "Find Myself" by Facing Fears and Life's Dark Forces (premiere + interview)

Shifting gears from aspiring electropop princess to rock 'n' rule dream queen, Toronto's DYLYN is re-examining her life while searching for truth with a new song and a very scary-good music video.


JOBS Make Bizarre and Exhilarating Noise with 'endless birthdays'

Brooklyn experimental quartet JOBS don't have a conventional musical bone in their body, resulting in a thrilling, typically off-kilter new album, endless birthdays.


​Nnamdï' Creates a Lively Home for Himself in His Mind on 'BRAT'

Nnamdï's BRAT is a labyrinth detailing the insular journey of a young, eclectic DIY artist who takes on the weighty responsibility of reaching a point where he can do what he loves for a living.


Monte Warden and the Dangerous Few Play It Cool​

Austin's Monte Warden and the Dangerous Few perform sophisticatedly unsophisticated jazz/Americana that's perfect for these times


Eleanor Underhill Takes Us to the 'Land of the Living' (album stream)

Eleanor Underhill's Land of the Living is a diverse album drawing on folk, pop, R&B, and Americana. It's an emotionally powerful collection that inspires repeated listens.


How Hawkwind's First Voyage Helped Spearhead Space Rock 50 Years Ago

Hawkwind's 1970 debut opened the door to rock's collective sonic possibilities, something that connected them tenuously to punk, dance, metal, and noise.


Graphic Novel 'Cuisine Chinoise' Is a Feast for the Eyes and the Mind

Lush art and dark, cryptic fables permeate Zao Dao's stunning graphic novel, Cuisine Chinoise.


Alanis Morissette's 'Such Pretty Forks in the Road' Is a Quest for Validation

Alanis Morissette's Such Pretty Forks in the Road is an exposition of dolorous truths, revelatory in its unmasking of imperfection.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.