Surfing Strange

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Swearin's 2012 self-titled debut was a bright, fuzzy blanket of hooky pop-punk anchored by straightforward and emotionally blunt lyrics from joint singer/guitarist/songwriters Allison Crutchfield and Kyle Gilbride. More than an oversharing heart-on-the-sleeve approach, the songs seemed honest even in their sometimes bleak or mundane sentiments. The band's appeal came from the specific magic that happened when these unclouded lyrics met up with exciting, speedy musical backdrops. With sophomore album Surfing Strange, Swearin' follow that approach into some interesting new phases of their development, dropping some of the raw, speedy, and skittering punk energy of the debut to try on heavier styles that actually serve as better complements to the sometimes heavy moods of the songs. Crutchfield's salty croon leans even more toward a cache of '90s influence on the songs she takes the lead on. Album-opener "Dust in the Gold Sack" calls to mind the distorted melodicism of Throwing Muses or the distant storytelling of Team Dresch, while the drony harmonies of "Parts of Speech" or the booming slow churn of "Mermaid" fall under a heavy early Breeders influence, meeting up with elements of Jawbreaker's poetic punk sonnets to impressions of places, people, and situations. When Gilbride drives the songs, results vary from the quasi-twang tales of drinking and despondency of "Watered Down" to the melancholic slowcore of "Curdled," which calls on the same thoughtful mumbling of underrated '90s indie act Silkworm. The somewhat more introspective feel of Surfing Strange falls in line with the work of Allison's sister Katie Crutchfield in her solo project, Waxahatchee, but the collaborative elements of Swearin' get the songs outside of the band's collective heads and more above water than Waxahatchee's similarly toned work. Veering away from the anthemic toward something more like a conversation with oneself on a long walk, Surfing Strange is a picture of a band not in transition, but in an especially quick process of maturation. The results end up being no less instantly exciting, but more lasting and poignant than what came before.

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