Sw!ms - Ride of the Blueberry Winter (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick


Ride of the Blueberry Winter (2006)

Prison Jazz

The second I popped this CD in my player, I knew I was in for a treat. With Farfisa organ, a bouncy beat and a vocal melody that grabbed me instantly, "C'moff It" had ‘feel-good record' printed all over it. And boy, I love feelin' good; I'm no emo kid. The Sw!ms combine sixties psychedelic pop with more current indie rock stylings and bizarre lyrics to create a memorable and fun-as-hell record. It must have been meant to be -- they are from the town the American version of "The Office" takes place in, and I love that show! (Name that town and state!)

Fans of atypical pop groups like Architecture in Helsinki, Belle & Sebastian, the Unicorns, Saturday Looks Good to Me, and Zolof the Rock & Roll Destroyer will definitely dig this, even though the Sw!ms don't sound exactly like any of them; it's more a likeness in attitude. The vocal melodies occasionally reminded me of the Shins, though I couldn't quite put my finger on why other than they make me happy in the same way. Fans of the nerdy comedy of Napoleon Dynamite will also be attracted to this group for they reference delightfully dorky topics like archery, mythical beasts, video games, and lava. Plus, singer/guitarist Brian Langan could pass for a chubby Napoleon.

The album is full of great moments. "Blood in the Lanai" has a verse reprise that sounds like it's sung by the Muppets. "Be My Lava Valkyrie" is an interlude straight out of the 1920s. "Clean Escape" takes a twangy turn complete with slide guitar. Closer "Upstate Milkmaid" has a roaring ending complete with a Revolver-style guitar solo which may or may not really be backwards.

But it's not all fun and games; the record takes a more serious turn halfway through, when violent cello screeching ushers in "Yub Yub" sung by (recently departed) drummer Claire Connelly. It is followed by "Knitting and Knitting," the slowest and longest track on the disc, which starts acoustic and cello-driven, to eventually build up into a frenzy of fuzzy guitars and crashing drums, giving more of a Death Cab vibe. Later, an Animal Collective-style intro of garbled vocal effects and synth noise counts down into the band's "single" (they made a weird video for it), "Vermillion Archer." This is a song that could possibly typify a band that goes all over the pop map, with loud organ, crunchy `60s guitars tones, an uptempo beat and irresistible vocals. Another more typical track for them would be the superb "Depth Charge."

Though the seemingly simple hooks of the keys and vocals may fool you into thinking this band isn't serious, they are -- seriously good. Bursting with sonic ideas, Ride of the Blueberry Winter has 16 tracks, not to mention a bunch of little interludes in between, and while they are mostly melodic, no track could be confused for another. Fast song or slow song, their energy level is always high, showing that they love what they do. I can't remember the last time I was this blown away by something I was sent that I had never even heard of before. Looking for a good time? Call the Sw!ms.