Silver Swans – Forever
San Francisco duo Silver Swans have been making big waves in the blogosphere recently thanks to a string of dreamlike, shoegaze-indebted singles and a zeitgeist-surfing cover of Lana Del Rey’s “Video Games”, re-imagined as a cold, IDM-influenced lament. Singer Ann Yu and DJ/producer Jon Waters have pooled several years of collective muso experience and now they deliver their first full-length album, “Forever” released Feb. 7, which looks to establish Silver Swans’ sound and garner yet more recognition from critics and fans alike.
Understand sound in the singular because the duo’s standard MO – ghostly vocals intoning over maudlin synths and skittering 808 beats – is relied on heavily throughout the album’s running time, without the much-needed sonic diversity required to prevent it from wearing thin.
Obvious influences such as The Knife, Cocteau Twins and even Gorillaz’ downbeat electro managed to attain cult status by introducing shades of manic insecurity, implicit darkness and idiosyncratic vocal tics to their otherwise uniform, synth-based palette. Whereas Yu just seems to be constantly on the verge of nodding off (indeed, most of these songs were apparently conceived in the twilight hours before sleep.) As a result, despite the best of intentions, Silver Swans tread a thin line between alluringly narcoleptic, as on previous single “Secrets” and plain apathetic, like penultimate track “Karen”. It is only eight tracks in, on the ironically-titled “On The Quiet”, that the BPM count is notched up and a scuzzy, menacing bassline makes a much-appreciated cameo.
It’s not all shades of grey though – the six-minute centrepiece “Diary Land” successfully apes current media darlings M83, all the way down to the ill-advised spoken word interlude, whilst “Mother Of Pearl” is a fantastic, Camera Obscura-esque stomper that’s only slightly hampered by the obligatory reverb and atmospherics.
“Arrows” is the most musically experimental number here, incorporating Caribbean drums on the needling chorus in a delightfully leftfield move. Finally, closing track “Always something” echoes “Still light” off The Knife’s defining “Silent shout” – uncharacteristically simple and direct, it betrays a sincere confusion and hurt that really gives shape to Yu’s previously amorphous singing persona, and hints at much more interesting things to come from the group. In the context of this largely and consistently unremarkable album, however, it can’t help but seem like too little too late.
Verdict: ••• – Considering the potential of the duo we would have loved to hear a better album, too bad.
Forever has been released Feb. 7, 2012.
‘Around you’ from the new album, Forever: