If you’re wondering whether it’s possible to deliver a heavy, meaningful rock gift wrapped in light and fun wrapping paper, look no further than Black Swedes’ full-length Phase for the answers you seek. This is an album that manages to take thoughtful lyrics, crushing rock theory, and intricately catchy melodies, mixing them all into a concoction that is just as enjoyable on a car ride home as it is pumping through the speakers on game night with friends.
On one hand, there are highly emotive songs peppered throughout. For instance, “Take Shelter” starts amid an ominous, almost electric storm. Though the mostly atmospheric noise breaks into bouncy chords of a much lighter sound, the lyrical content retains the same somber mood set by the tumultuous beginning. Similarly, the beginning of “Pain Called Heaven” is quiet and reflective, gently rocking and rolling along. The difference here is that this is a sexy, tantalizing song, reminiscent of Minus the Bear’s “White Mystery” while remaining very unique. The lead guitar only whispers in shadows during the verse, saving its full-fledged onslaught for the chorus.
On the other hand, some of the songs are a bit more furious and certainly elevate heart rates. “Thieves” evokes images of a group of masked robbers in the night preparing for their next crime. The solo that closes the song is particularly frenzied, as though they have been caught or detected and now need to escape. There’s a song a bit later, “Unsaid,” which seems to expand on this frenzy a bit.
Of course, this album doesn’t fit neatly into two categories, featuring some standout tracks that really keep the album on its toes. “Rest” has a little blues, a little jazz, and a whole lot of soothing calm, and is a great midpoint for the album. “Suffer With the Crowd” draws you in with the sort of drum beat and initial rhythm that you can’t quite follow, but becomes immediately satisfying once the full rhythm kicks in. This one is unique, with the incorporation of a nice touch of soul and funk weaved within the rock delivery.
“Little Furniture” is a cute way to end things, serving as the best storytelling song on the album. It captures the feeling after the proverbial storm has hit, when the shock of reality brings one back down to earth. It ends with the whisper of wind, further solidifying that the worst of it is over, but there is still much more to come.
I did not expect Phase to be as deep and moving as it was while the song lyrics were thought provoking in their own right, the accompanying rhythms really drove the varying moods home and made this an enjoyable listen from start to finish. I hope the Black Swedes have celebrated the release of this interesting album as much as they likely celebrated the recent Super Bowl victory of their hometown team.
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