CD review: Snide commentary, sweet synth yield solid follow-up from The Swimmers
Katy Metcalf reviews "People Are Soft," the indie band's second album
Published: Saturday, November 21, 2009 - 4:25pm
U.S. release date: Nov. 4, 2009
Official Site, MySpace, Wikipedia
I AM AN indie rock kind of kid. I can skateboard badly and climb buildings and have sunset angst in tree tops and complain about societal norms while at the same conforming to every single one of them.
The Swimmers are an indie rock kind of band. They're pretty chill, for the most part, with the '80s synth resurgence feel intended to set them apart but instead making them sound like every other recent indie rock hit ever.
And that's OK.
The Swimmers' sophomore album, "People Are Soft," was released earlier this month to an underground sort of applause amongst the kind of people who like these things. It's already made a name for itself as an indie hit, but I don't intend to discriminate against it just because of that particular misstep.
The sound of "People" is a pretty consistent followup to their last album, "Fighting Trees." It's sunny and summery, with really soaring, floaty guitar bits and also some unoriginal but well-suited drum tracks and other things of that nature.
The bass lines are kind of slick, in a one-two-three kind of fashion, and there are also some pretty synth parts. In truth, there is a certain flair.
I'm really at a loss for how to classify their sound. They sound like The Killers quite a lot of the time, which is nothing objectionable. Occasionally there is a slight overtone of The Strokes, another favorite in this particular genre. They sound like a lot of things sometimes, and rarely anything distinctive. It's the kind of music you listen to, smile, and immediately forget about. As I said before, it's OK.
In retrospect, though, it doesn't really need identifying features on particular tracks; its overall sound serves to separate it from the whole. Though there's nothing you can point your finger at, "People" paints a picture of summer love, hanging out in pine trees swaying in the evening breeze and watching the sunset over the Atlantic. There's graffiti and a glimpse of concrete suburbia, skinned knees and ripped jeans and a first kiss that isn't a first kiss but is still pretty nice.
So overall, this album is pretty tight. The sound is consistently good, if unoriginal, and the lyrics are cute with pithy, wit-laden undertones.
The best track would easily be "To The Bells," a cynical love ballad that reminds me inexplicably of the not-so-nice parts of Long Island in the summer. Though other reviewers such as Ventvox have referred to it as nothing more than a "jangly mess," I find its dissonance interesting and even, somehow, classy.
Vocalist and frontman Steve Yutzy-Burkey sings sarcastically of an obsessed lover:
- Well, a pillow has a name,
Got a job, and a band,
But he waits all day for her to return …
Anyone would kill for that much fun.
He's a wit, to be sure, but the dark undertones match the "jangly" dischords in a way that is entirely pleasing to the ear.
The weakest track on this album is most definitely the overly repetitive "Dresses Don't Fit." Here, Yutzy-Burkey sings the ever-clichéd story of The Desirable Girl (whose dress, curiously enough, is too small and ostensibly quite revealing).
"The windows won't lock," he croons semi-sweetly. "People will find their way into your heart." Perhaps with another band this would play out better, but for a group so otherwise focused on snide social commentary and dark love songs, it tastes somewhat sour.
However, even those two oppositely charged songs have enough in common to give "People" an uncommonly tight-knit feel. Despite the changes in tone and subject, this album is incredibly cohesive in its sound and production, resulting in a fantastically solid listen.
In short, "People Are Soft" is a remarkably solid effort on the part of the Swimmers. I only hope they'll continue to develop their sound to match their feel and lyrical ability.