The Trouble With Sweeney

The Trouble With Sweeney

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With its spare sound, acoustic guitar, and vocal, the debut, self-titled EP from Philadelphia's the Trouble With Sweeney nestles the band in alt-country at the same time that it shifts the genre's landscape. These are not songs ripe with details of the heartland or the South, the sameness of small towns, thankless blue-collar jobs, and heartache, but they are songs ripe with details of the suburbs, the eventual sameness of all big cities, thankless white-collar jobs, and, of course, heartache. It's that perspective and the lyrical turns in which they are expressed that make the EP a notable one. Frontman and songwriter (and Philadelphia Weekly music writer) Joey Sweeney has a knack for imagery. On "The Way We Run Our Town," Sweeney sings, "The way we run our town/We put trees next to the railroad tracks/So the people ridin' by/Don't see the knives sticking out of our backs." The languor in the tale is perfectly supported by the soft, strumming of an acoustic guitar, but it bounces along on the bassline. On "He Had No Idea," the "he" of the story, backed by a country swing rhythm and harmonica, explains his surprise visit to an ex with the metaphor "I decided I was gonna come down here and spring you/Like a brand new 20-dollar bill." The little-known Buffalo Springfield/Neil Young-penned tune "Flying on the Ground Is Wrong" is the record's only cover, and the wistful melody fits in perfectly. Through it all, Sweeney's voice has that weary edge perfect for an album that plays like a short-story collection sung to an alt-country beat.

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