Unless you live around Boston, there’s a good chance you’ve never even heard about Amy & The Engine. We must do something about that immediately! The band was formed by lead singer and songwriter Amy Allen at Berklee College of Music in early 2014, consisting of members from all over the world, including Australia, Peru, and Brazil. Prior to that Allen had put out her own solo EP, Honey, in 2010, and she also participated in NBC’s The Voice. Still doesn’t ring a bell? Don’t worry, TandeMania is going to change that soon enough. Not only is this quite possibly the best EP of the year, it also might just be the one of the most refreshing indie releases in recent memory.
I don’t even know how to begin to describe my affection for what these guys and girls have done here. There is so much to love about this collection, from the electric musicality to the glowing production. Categorically speaking, I guess you could label the style as indie folk, but I don’t think that’s an entirely fair assessment to make. What we have here is a really eclectic batch of songs, ranging from tender, acoustic ballads to salty surf-rock and americana-tinged jangle-pop. Like Echosmith, but less electronic and more mature when it comes to the songwriting. Every single track on this thing is a chart-topping radio hit just waiting to take off, but not in a way that feels calculated or compromised. It’s all completely organic and sincere, like any music should be, which I think is the single greatest strength of TandeMania. It doesn’t follow trends, it creates them.
The music is so exuberant and lush, like spring turning into summer. It’s warm and vibrant, colorful and personal, unlike anything you will hear in the current mainstream. It flows freely and unfiltered, bouncing like a rubber ball through a playground of endless creativity. The lead single Arrows is a perfect example of that, showcasing a groovy disco-beat and a catchy guitar melody that will stick with you for weeks. Last Forever likewise has a very irresistible hook + a country-esque rock n’ roll chorus so infectious, it would be perfect for kicking off someone’s prom night. Amy Allen really shines through on these tunes with her delicate and fragile yet powerfully mesmerising vocals. How she didn’t make it all the way in The Voice is a mystery to me. But then again, she probably couldn’t have accomplished all that she did within the frames of a show like that.
The more I listen to TandeMania, the happier I seem to get. It evokes all kinds of feelings inside of me, most of them positive. I can picture myself driving along the pacific coast highway to the lo-fi sunshine vibrations of Stronger, or walking near the shore, gazing out on a setting sun as the soothing rhythm of Megaphone surrounds me, bringing calmness to my mind and soul. The whole record is so free from melancholy and sadness. It makes me hopeful and optimistic about my life, like a really good friend giving me comfort by letting me know that I’m not the only one who has experienced heartaches and disappointments. Allen is a tour-de-force of a front-woman, allowing herself to be vulnerable and intimate, but without ever being self-depricating or overly serious about it. There is a light at the end of her tunnel, and sometimes I feel like the world needs to be reminded that even the hardest times will pass too. It doesn’t have to be all black and white.
One of the most remarkable things about Amy & The Engine is that they don’t sound like a small band just starting out. They are so confident in their own skin and what they do, I never once felt compelled to pause or skip through the track-list. It’s rare for an EP to be so captivating and consistent from start to finish, but TandeMania is never boring and always feels grounded in real human emotions. Whether it’s the sugarcoated bubble-gum instrumentation on Love Me, the reflective lyrics about growing up on Patience, or the sly string-plucking on No Good (hidden in the last track, Baby (I Know), on Spotify). Nothing appears artificial or pre-meditated. It’s as natural and effortless as can be. The sound is bright and uplifting, a fresh breath of air in the independent music scene. It rocks with a sense of sweetness that not a lot of bands can pull off. This group will go far and reach wide, I truly believe that. They have that same musical fingerprint that made Fleetwood Mac so successful back in the 1970’s. It’s only a matter of time before the world realises their potential, and when that happens, I’ll be the first to sing the praise and buy the records.