The Austin Chronicle

Record Reviews

Texas Platters

Reviewed by Christopher Hess, September 29, 2000, Music

The Swells

Yesterday's Songs (Sandwich)

This first full-length release from Austin's Swells takes the spacey pop and rock vision of outstanding local label Sandwich Records to yet another level as Yesterday's Songs supplies more gorgeous whispers and lush melodies than most albums could contain. Whereas the band's 1998 EP electrostaticvibraverb dwelled more in the darker realm of reverb and noise of My Bloody Valentine, the new album finds them applying those same principles of sonic density to more refined and succinct pop structures, more reminiscent of the Church than the Cocteau Twins. Opener "Fountainhead" fades in on a soft guitar, sliding into melody and voice as gently as a baby into a bath. "Breathe" pulses with soft energy, gliding forward on a propulsive bassline. Instrumental "The Sea" is gorgeous and engaging, a slow evolution of sound that evokes great distance and an eerie emptiness. And there's lots more. The entire album has this sense of delicacy, an air of connections so tenuous that when the band turns a song to a jam, as they do on "Star Crossed" and "The Ghost of You," breakdown and subsidence seem inevitable -- indeed, necessary -- to restore the balance. But there is no tension/release formula at work here. Yesterday's Songs moves through many moods, exploring enough aural real estate to hold plenty of surprises and an even greater number of excellent songs.


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