Sky Swimming

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Elephant's debut album, Sky Swimming, features a song called "Allured," and it's a perfect description of the duo's sound. As it swells from pretty, spare piano balladry showcasing Amelia Rivas' enchanting voice into strings that stop just short of lavish, it's as tender and, yes, alluring as the first signs of spring after a long winter. Sky Swimming boasts many other moments that are just as vivid, from the limpid guitars and echoing vocals that suggest rippling waves on "Shipwrecked" to the playful organ that contrasts the pained lyrics on "Ants." Throughout the album, Rivas and Christian Pinchbeck never sound anything less than graceful, tasteful, light, and breezy. Their demure pop recalls contemporaries like Cults and Tennis as well as the sophisticated heartbreak of Ivy, particularly on the album's title track. Most of the time, this delicacy serves Elephant well, but sometimes their sound is so gentle that it doesn't make much of an immediate impression. Sky Swimming's highlights make the most of their flair for playful arrangements and instrumentation: "TV Dinner" and "Elusive Youth" show that Pinchbeck and Rivas have a soft spot for '60s pop that gives their music a more glamorous edge, while the loungy strings on "Skyscraper" and the choral backing vocals on "Shapeshifter" hark back to even more traditional pop while remaining contemporary. For all their wispiness, Elephant do know how to write insistently catchy songs: witness "Assembly," where the hooks are just as intriguing and plentiful as the spooky keyboards, or the sweet and simple "Come to Me," which brings some welcome directness to their songwriting. In all, Sky Swimming is a lovely, impressionistic debut that suggests Elephant are on the cusp of delivering even more.

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