In the current pop climate it’s a rarity when an album of piano-centric music eschews turgid ballads for jaunty upbeat numbers, but that’s by and large what Finland’s Astrid Swan pulls off on Poverina. There’s an air of ’70s Carole King threading the melodies of tracks like “Good Girl,” which bounces along carefree and timeless despite the reflective refrain of “I used to be a good girl/ I used to love the good world/ and now I see myself/ completely someone else.” It’s like a throwback to another era, where the inherent melancholy in pop songwriting didn’t lead down the slippery slope of wallowing in self-pity, but kept it on the sweet side.
Swan’s arrangements throughout this disc are impeccable. The opener “They Need You If They Think You Love Them” is as ornate and precise as a music box, with a string section plucking and swooping away from Swan’s staccato piano-and-bells melody lines. The title track is pure Dusty Springfield, finding a middle ground with a modern equivalent of northern soul, jazzy drums and wistful do-dos. This album is instantly familiar, but still so fresh that it’s great for revisiting even after months of constant rotation.
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