Fall into the Sun

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Philadelphia pop-minded punks Swearin' split up in 2015 when co-leader/songwriters Allison Crutchfield and Kyle Gilbride ended their romantic relationship, one that had been solid when they formed the band in their early twenties. Crutchfield spent some time touring as part of her sister Katie's Waxahatchee project and released the synthy and self-reflective solo album Tourist in This Town in early 2017. As time moved on, the ex-bandmates' wounds healed and they reconnected, reactivating Swearin' with drummer Jeff Bolt to work toward their third album and first new music in five years. Rather than picking up where they left off with unfinished material from the time of their breakup, they decided to start fresh. As a result, the 11 songs that make up Fall into the Sun take on a decidedly more refined and mature feeling than anything from the band's first wave. Themes of time, growth, change, and migration come up repeatedly. Crutchfield's move to Los Angeles from the close-knit Philly punk scene is touched on throughout, from the epic and ruminative album opener "Big Change" to "Untitled (LA)," an anthemic exploration of a cross-country uprooting from the East to the West Coast. Gilbride's songs seem more focused on the ghosts of getting older in one place, but are also approached with a weathered, wizened perspective. Both "Dogpile" and "Treading" simmer in midtempo tension, Gilbride looking at aimless years and restlessness with overly familiar surroundings. Similarly, "Stabilize" rides a slow-burning line, calling on some of the spaciousness that defined Crutchfield's Tourist in This Town as well as recalling the raw, on-edge pop perfection of Superchunk at their most wiry, circa Foolish. In among the slower, more refined fare are plenty of songs that capture the concentrated energy that Swearin' started with. The band's ability to twist seemingly straightforward pop idioms into something weird and interesting is fully intact on bendy, upbeat jammers like "Oil and Water" and the tormented but tuneful "Future Hell." Making smart rock music was never a challenge for the band, but the material here trades in the nervous hooks and urgent emotional reach of earlier material for songs that take their time and take more risks. Crutchfield's melodic sensibilities and Gilbride's enormous punk production were already signature sounds, but expanding on these trademarks in songs about getting older and more experienced makes Fall into the Sun all the more interesting and connective. Without losing any of the energetic fizz of their youth, Swearin' look honestly at their lives moving forward, arriving somewhere vulnerable yet impressively more confident than before.

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