Swervedriver- Future Ruins
British “space time rock’n’roll” group Swervedriver returns with Future Ruins, a sort of successor to their 2015 release I Wasn’t Born to Lose You. Fuzz-laden guitar riffs, sprinkled with tremolo and delay, support singer Adam Franklin’s grunge-tinged vocal style and iterate on the band’s core rock sound from their roots as a group as far back as 1989. The album was tracked in a short time span after a stretch of touring, spending about nine sessions tracking all ten songs on the album. While some ideas were carried over from their last studio album session or pulled from the back catalog of unfinished demos, each track threads a narrative on different topics observing our current society and detailing evidence of a future in need for change. From detailing individual loneliness within large crowds to the isolationist feeling of political movements like Brexit ruining future economic opportunities for British youth, the journey Swervedriver leads the listener through on this record never feels taxing in spite of its emotionally driven subject matter. Join Swervedriver on this exploration of time and space, the present and future, and take stock in how the people of the world can better themselves from taking a step back and examining their surroundings.
Highlights: "Mary Winter", "The Lonely Crowd Fades in The Air", "Spiked Flower"
Guster - Look Alive
This long-standing Boston alternative rock group kicks off 2019 with their first album in about 4 years, since the group’s formation over 20 years ago. The years of writing, recording, and performing together as a group combine to form a tastefully written and recorded release. The variety of synthesizer sounds on this album pair nicely with the core rock instruments, whether it’s cycling sequencers, thick bass lines, or ambient pads rounding out the fullness of a track. Songs carry that familiar pop structure most listeners are used to, but are injected full of personality and charm that comes from Guster’s personality during the creative process. Lyrics describe basking in the warmth of summertime, nervous, romantic interaction, and just how hard it is to deal with the world around us. Even if you are checking back in with Guster for the first time since hearing “Satellite” in 2006, I’d encourage you to give the album a listen and join us April 12th for WYCE Presents: Guster live at The Intersection!
Highlights: "Don’t Go", "Look Alive", "Hard Times"
Michael Franti & Spearhead - Stay Human Vol. II
As I handle these reviews, I am always learning about artists that didn’t make it onto my radar, but seeing that Michael Franti headlined Red Rocks with Snarky Puppy as a supporting artist last year made me interested in checking this album out. From the first track, Michael Franti’s core ideology shines through as a creative: positivity and activism centered around a variety of rock, reggae, pop, and hip hop influences meld together into his “Soulrocker” sound. Calling for a world to heal, love, and take care of any problems, no matter how small, each track carves through the cloudy, cold winter months to offer hope for a better future (a nice foil to listening to Swervedriver’s depiction of dreary times ahead). The cynical side to me doesn’t want to believe an artist can genuinely open their arms to the people of the world and actively fight for positive social change, but here I am bobbing my head these tunes and celebrating the good in humanity! It speaks to the level of care that goes into seemingly simple pop productions, and it also speaks to Franti’s 20 year career with The Spearheads and his additional 6 years of music groups focused on healing and activism. If you’re wanting an escape from the bitter cold, to draw up the shades and dance your stressors away, this album can serve as that catalyst for your positive weekend!
Highlights: "Little Things", "The Flower", "Enjoy Every Second"
Sneaks - Highway Hypnosis
Part post-punk mentality blended with lo-fi hip hop, “Sneaks” carves out more territory in Washington DC with her third release. Minimal textures, keyboards, and drum machines accompany chanted lyrics or spoken word poetry throughout the release, showcasing artist Eva Moolchan’s personality without succumbing to the expectations of modern hip hop’s often boisterous, noisey anthems. That being said, fans of hip hop will still find a vibe to latch onto with Moolchan’s intimate compositions that forgo atypical production for a blending of sounds and styles. Each track ebbs and flows together in a sea of synth sounds, sparse drum beats, and subdued lyrical delivery to create a hypnotic effect, letting your mind relax as you tune out a stressful day on a long drive. Highway Hypnosis will invite you in with its minimal, intentional approach and will keep you with Moolchan’s personality shining through on each tune.
Highlights: "The Way It Goes", "Money Don’t Grow on Trees", "Hong Kong to Amsterdam"
Eerie Wanda - Pet Town
Dutch/Croatian songwriter and visual artist Marina Tadic returns with her latest album, Pet Town. These warm, intimate recordings occupy a cozy living room in one’s imagination, inviting you in from the cold to clap your hands and bob your head to each song. Like Eva Moolchan, Tadic utilizes a very minimal palette of sounds: hand claps, finger snaps, a drum machine, acoustic guitars, and added backing track textures like nature sounds. Within this seemingly limited instrumentation, Tadic showcases her talent as an adept composer, weaving a variety of stories and experiences into memorable tunes. Styles range from Elvis-like rock songs, lilting folk pop tunes, and music that borrows from Tadic’s diverse cultural backgrounds. One song that resonated with me was “Sleepy Eyes,” a tune that speaks to a feeling we all share of not wanting to have obligations and staying indoors (as I think about forgoing my trip up to Ludington today with the weather but also needing to go grocery shopping…). I encourage you to delight in the individual that is Marina Tadic, because she offers the world her great cross-section of her life in these new songs!
Highlights: "Sleepy Eyes", "Pet Town", "Moon"
Dutcher Snedeker is a volunteer columnist and album reviewer for 88.1FM WYCE in Grand Rapids, MI.