Silver Swans

Touch

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    7
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The duo of Ann Yu and Jon Waters had been making chilly electro-pop under the name Silver Swans for a few years by the time their second album, Touch, came out in 2013. Previous EPs and albums were a little uneven, though the simple beauty of Yu's voice always shone through intensely and Waters' uncluttered synth pop arrangements were always strong. This time out there's an underlying sense of focus and purpose that makes the record their best yet. Perhaps inspired by the ice-cold textures of the Drive soundtrack and groups like Chromatics, there's an understated, deeply melancholy feel to the songs that, oddly, feels warm and comforting. Maybe that's because no matter how sparse or robotic the synths and simple guitar lines are, Yu's voice always surrounds them with tenderness. She provides solace among the heartache; a tiny beating heart lost in the pulsing synths and machines. Not for nothing is the opening track titled "Solace." As the album smoothly progresses from downbeat ballad to downcast slow-motion disco cut, the mood deepens and the album builds to a kind of momentum that never slows. One could extract individual songs, like the sugary "Part of Me Still Wants You" or the almost bubbly "Friendship," and praise them for the sterling examples of modern synth pop that they are, but the overall impact of the album as a whole is what impresses the most. With the sounds he carefully coaxes from his array of keys, buttons, and knobs, Waters has created a cocoon-like world of melancholy that's easy to sink into and never want to come out of. Yu sounds like she wants both to escape and give herself over to the welcoming embrace of sadness. In terms of sound and songcraft, Touch is a big step forward for the duo, one that finds them trailing the front runners of their chosen field by just a little bit. Indeed, fans of Chromatics, Class Actress, and Glass Candy should check this album out right away since they provide the same ice-covered chills as those bands, and do so with just a little more human touch blended into the mix.

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