January 20, 2015

Review: Swings | Detergent Hymns

Historically speaking, indie rock has never put a huge premium on articulation. Indeed, the music many of us cut our teeth on largely got by on feeling alone, not specificity. Swings, a relatively new, slowcore-indebted concern from the fertile DC scene, proffers a unpredictable, shifting sound that neatly situates the band within independent music's collection of indefinite expressionists. Fronter Jamie Finucane possesses a remarkably emotive voice that one could deem marble-mouthed. For all the moods and motifs conveyed across the threesome’s oft-thrilling debut LP Detergent Hymns, pointing to a particularly gratifying lyrical couplet is an exercise in futility. This renders the record no less moving, however.

If anything, Mr. Finucane’s syrupy, meandering enunciations present a worthy foil to the uneasy tension established by the trio’s deft, imaginative playing. Swings' songs routinely fall in and out of rhythm, an approach that on the surface comports with the mopey preoccupation ascribed to like-minded bands. However, over multiple listens, the haphazard cadences prove well-calculated, perhaps cribbed from jazz or influenced by the late DJ Rashad. And so Swings' ability to sound equal parts improbably loose and delightfully concise emerges as a key element of the band's aesthetic.

Detergent Hymns commences with "Pale Trinity," a composition cast from slow, plodding guitar lines that establish a narcotic pacem albeit one spangled by jazz-y drum fills that materialize seemingly at random. Musically, the vibe suggests a maniacal reimagining of the palpable haze sonic forebears Galaxie 500 conjured with its LP On Fire. It's also a thoughtful extension of the tone set by last year's "Champagne" single. It's worth noting here that Swings was once an entirely different, and -- as the group would likely admit -- more pedestrian project oeprating under the moniker Anchor 3. With that context, Detergent Hymns represents a complete rebirth. The transition certainly bodes well for the young group, considering the boundless possibilities seemingly afforded by the fresh direction.

The graceful, pulsating "Heavy Manner," as well as the record's closing statement "Calling It," were pushed as preview tracks, but the highlight of Detergent Hymns may well be "Phlegm." The tune's uninviting title does little to detract from its winsome, rise-and-fall, dynamic appeal. That said, it's difficult to single out specific tracks, as the entire record is strong, and works well as a cohesive piece. Swings wrapped a short strand of live dates Saturday in Harrisonburg, VA, and -- as noted on its social media platforms -- the trio already has another record in the proverbial bag and ready for mixing. We feel comfortable opining that if the planned successor set maintains the beguiling personality of Detergent Hymns, we foresee yet more success for Swings. Detergent Hymns is out now on cassette via Quiet Year Records in an apparent limited edition of 65 pieces, and we're given to understand that few remain in stock; try and grab one here. Or, grab a digital copy direct from the band right here. -- Dillon Riley

Swings: Bandcamp | Facebook

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