Lately arrived in Austin and looking to expand her musical universe (not unlike myself), Amanda Lepre is one of the most promising locals I've yet uncovered in my Demo Sweat column. There are a lot of gifted songwriters and a lot of good singers in Central Texas, but often the two skills seem to be mutually exclusive. Lepre, who's got a powerful alto and also sings dazzling high harmonies on A Premonition, is a rarity. She's got a great voice, which is something you simply can't acquire, but as a songwriter and guitarist she shows a real commitment to supporting her gift with hard work and careful consideration.
For a mostly acoustic demo (a few tracks have slight synth touches, it sounds like), A Premonition avoids repetition. Through just the right balance of guitar and harmony vocal overdubs, the songs are full enough to stand on their own and highly suggestible of what they might sound like with a full band. Lepre's arrangements have recognizable choruses, but they also have tightly composed instrumental sections that build on the rhythms of the vocal parts while adding new melodic ideas. Her background as a video gamer is reflected on the chugging, clipped rhythm figure to "Undying Hero," which sounds reminiscent of the overworld music from Final Fantasy VI, and the way longer, single-line guitar melodies wind their ways through the bottom of many of the mixes here. There's touches of progressive rock ("Wrath on the Styx") and some lovely classical guitar harmonics (the middle section of "Break").
The best thing about A Premonition is the lyrical approach. While this is intense, personal, cathartic music, Lepre ultimately arrives at positive messages in her songs. These are not stories of despair and surrender, but rather of lessons learned through conflict and pride in one's ability to survive: "My world is collapsing, but I will not drown." It's okay to express doubt in one's music, but profiting off of self-pity is no career path in any art form. Amanda Lepre seems to have found a lot of strength through facing her demons in song, and deserves to connect with listeners who will benefit from sharing in her victories.