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Album Review

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.


Born: 1982 in Helsinki, Finland

Genre: Pop

Years Active: '00s

A dramatic songwriter and performer similar to artists like Regina Spektor and Rufus Wainwright, Astrid Swan made ripples in the blogosphere when she emerged on the Minty Fresh label in the early 2000s. Born in Finland, Swan showed a good deal of musical talent at a young age; she began playing the piano at age six and started her first band, Fluff, when she was 15. Her interest in the English language bloomed early as well; Swan spent a year living in Ann Arbor, MI, when she was 17, where she played...
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Poverina, Astrid Swan
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