Having slowly built up a rep as one of the more interesting and exciting bands on the shoegaze/noise rock/dream pop revival circuit, the Bay Area quintet Whirr took a slight detour from their usually energetic, almost sprightly sound into more noisily ambient, slowed-down, and murky territory on the 2013 EP Around. This change in approach informed the direction of group's third album, Sway, quite heavily. Apart from the opening "Press," which kicks off the album with a hard-charging, almost ferocious noise pop attack, all the rest of the songs hover somewhere between deep sleep and waking dream, with drummer Devin Nunes beating the life out of his kit in slow motion and the rest of the band crafting waves of glacial noise for Nick Bassett's vocals to drift through like melancholy smoke. It's not as static and detached as Around was, more energy and drama surge through the tightly controlled tempos and cascading guitars, and the songs are more like actual songs with hooks than aimless dirges. Sway has a far heavier sound than previous Whirr albums and inches them closer to the harder side of the shoegaze revival (right next to Bassett's other band, Nothing, in fact). While some might miss the faster, lighter tracks that dominated their 2012 album Pipe Dreams, it's hard to deny the brutal, at times crunchingly so, power that Sway has in its louder moments and the fragile beauty that occurs when the intense noise scrapes up against the fragile tenderness of Bassett's vocals. It makes for the best kind of dream pop and shoegaze, where it sounds like the songs and performances mean something and aren't just excuses to fool around with pedals and make a bunch of sound. Listening to punishing tracks like "Clear" and "Heavy," it's clear that there is some real emotion being spilled, and only the hardest-hearted listeners will be able to make it through the title track without getting a case of the feels. Apart from any emotions the album might dredge up, by the end of it, all but the most stuck-in-the-'90s shoegaze fans will see that Sway is an album that would measure up to almost any album made by the first wave of shoegazers. And by the current wave of revivalists, grave robbers, and crafty thieves as well.
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AllMusic Review by Tim Sendra