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Album Review: Swings - Sugarwater

By Julia Leiby, Music Director

[Exploding in Sound, 2015]

Rating: 3.5/5

Key Tracks: “Tiles," “Dust,” Sea”

Although lyrics are a crucial element of any song, one can listen through Sugarwater by the D.C. trio Swings paying little attention to what frontman Jamie Finucane is saying and still have an

emotional experience--the mark of a truly musically gifted group. Sugarwater is the band’s second full length after January 2015’s Detergent Hymns.

The trio, composed of Jamie Finucane, Dan Howard, and Zach Lewton, are juniors at Oberlin College and recently took a semester off to embark on a 50-day tour. Their sound is defined by Finucane’s moody, atmospheric, and drawn-out vocals, while Lewton’s low and smooth basslines form a dark yet warm undertone to complement Howard’s precise, controlled drumming.

An early standout track on the record is “Tiles,” a melancholy song about a draining relationship. Finucane’s low voice drones, hanging on every word, as he describes this sinking partnership. “You empty yourself on me / Pull on my chest and take it away / Call it a new narrative but it sounds just, like, the same,” he sings. Swings are not an “emo” band, but their songs tend to be rooted in deeply emotional themes. Almost all of the tracks on the record are addressed to a nameless “you” who Finucane alternately reveres, regrets and holds on to.

The album’s prominent theme is water and the calm and turmoil it brings. Water also serves as a metaphor for the tumultuous relationship continually referenced by Finucane. On the opening track “Dirty Blue,” Finucane asks “Can we go to any body of water? / Can we just flow?” On “Tiles,” he is “curled into a deep sea,” and on “Mouthwash” he pleads “Drag me down to sea / I always come back to you.”

Most of the songs on Sugarwater build slowly, and the melodies are immediately arresting--dark, downhearted, and introspective. Sugarwater is an album to fall asleep to, to walk home in the cold to, and to meditate on after a hard day--and with each listen, one will fall deeper into Swings’s balmy sea.

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