The day before Christmas saw the release of a nine track album by slowcore band Swain. Hailing from California, the group have described their sound as “a slow and autumnal flovour of indie,” a surprisingly accurate description of what is a unique and ponderous sound. The album has a few stand out tracks, including Last Night, I, You and Time is Not My Friend with a cover of Chris Bell’s You and Your Sister in the mix. Although the album gets off to a rocky start, by the end the band’s songwriting ability shines through with polished arrangements and innovative melodies.
The album began with Everything Will Come Together, and although the guitar should have been turned down a little, the soft airy tone of their lead singer saved the track. You and Your Sister was where the band’s unique sound was introduced. Although I would have liked to hear the guitar an octave lower, I think that the oxymoron that was their musical style and the vocal tone of the singer somehow worked rather well. Strawberry Creme was an easy-listening track that combined augmented chords and synth sounds. Although I did enjoy the amalgamation of these two elements, I thought the song could have been constructed so that the synth sounds were built up to rather than just plonked in.
The eighties was on show in Suburban Kicks. With the retro effect on the guitar and the Bowie-like vocals, the track was definitely a stand out. Home To had a more earthy feel than the rest, with melodic and rhythmic devices complemented by scale passages in the piano. It was obvious that their lead singer needed a bit more work in his upper register in Last Night. Although the tone of his voice was interesting, more control of intonation and vibrato was needed through support in the diaphragm. I quite enjoyed the gradual introduction of the string quartet in the track, with the cello first being introduced then the violins and viola. My only issue with the arrangement was that it was too short! Adding another verse or chorus with killer drums would have put that extra pizzazz into the song.
Old Town and I, You showcased Swain’s songwriting skills. The former used the instrumental arrangement to highlight the depth of the lyrics, with the latter exploring vocal harmonies for the first time on the album. The last track, Time is Not My Friend, was long but well worth the extra time. The echo effect was used well and the piano melody was interesting enough on its own but could also be buried in the backing track without too much hassle. I thought the synth sound at the six minute mark was a strange choice but it did work within the context of the song. Although it wasn’t my favourite track, it was certainly the most interesting and eclectic.
In their self-titled album, Swain have shown their potential. This can be seen in a few of the later tracks which had astounding arrangements and creative choices. If this sort of work and style was put into all of their tracks it would have been a killer album. Overall, I’m giving it 6/10.
To hear the album, check out Swain’s Bandcamp