Sweeder – Swallowed by the Sun

Sweeder
Swallowed by the Sun

Sweeder is a band filled with three musicians who have been playing around the indie scene for a while, albeit in relatively obscure bands. Jeff Carleton and Chiyoko Yoshida both played in a band called Squash Blossom, and the third musician, Julie Liu, played in Rex as well as guesting on albums by indie luminaries Tortoise, June of 44, and Songs: Ohia. So the group formed a couple of years ago in hopes of just playing together. After recording a demo (which I have not heard) the band decided to go and record “Swallowed by the Sun,” their first record together. The results vary, but these three manage to combine enough eclectic sounds and weary soundscapes to produce a few interesting songs.

The LP clocks in at just over 36 minutes, but its low number of songs (eight) invites lush, lengthy, moody epics. At least half of the record delivers. The album opens with “Moon,” one of its best songs. The song is soft and organic, with Radiohead-esque blips and beeps in the background (though I don’t for a second believe that the band was trying to sound like Radiohead). Chiyoko’s voice takes the lead and whispers/sings poetic lines. The lyrics on the album stand out somewhat, for they are poetic without being too artsy or obscure. Witness the chorus of “Moon”: “moon swollen sunrise/stealing my inside/rushing by the midnight through these secrets.” The lyrics effectively draw you in, especially on those summer nights when you’re feeling a little poetic yourself. The song eventually finds itself in a winding chorus, getting denser and denser before Chiyoko brings it all back down by singing the album’s title and returning to the mood music.

The second song is excellent as well. “Thread and Wire” revolves around a strong bass line, as Chiyoko’s voice drifts over layered guitars. The melody unravels itself, just as it did in the first song. “Filters” continues in similar fashion. At this point the band has successfully enticed the listener with three poetic, moody, lush arrangements that beg for attention. It is at this point however, that the band begins to falter.

“All I Can Be,” the fourth song, actually tries to be a little post-punk rave-up. It fails miserably. It almost reminds me of the Dance Hall Crashers (read the review I wrote to get an opinion of what I think of this kind of music). This fast, jagged little song, only 2:16 in length, really doesn’t fit the mood or dynamic of this band. “Remember Lovely” once again touches back to the band’s comfort zone, with male/female vocal interplay and winding guitar lines. Following this though, are two more punky songs that sound kind of like Sleater-Kinney on a bad day. “Wake” and “Sfity” (yes I spelled that right) both fail to really affect anyone. I’m sure the band thought it should temper its dirges with some quicker material, but these semi-bombastic numbers just leave you waiting for their epics once more.

The last song is a fitting closer. “Bells Lament” starts of slow and eerie, before an explosion of distorted guitars rushes the band to a soaring melody. The song serves as a fitting bookend, because I spent a lot of time waiting for this band to break down a little. When the breakdown finally comes in the last song, it’s grand, flawed, and an excellent fit. This band shows a great amount of promise in its better songs, and a great lack of judgment in its other songs. History shows that bands settle down with each album. I’d take a whole album of Sweeder’s beautifully constructed epics any day. This band just needs to grow a little.