Friday, October 5, 2012

Black Swan Runners

Pretty good power pop from Black Swan Runners, reviewed a day or so ago at Blurt.

Black Swan Runners
An Aside

Black Swan Runners make a spiky, bristly form of pop, one based primarily on scrubby, eighth-note strumming, hard beats and gleaming accents of synth and keyboard. Kevin Castillo, the band's leader, sings in the same gruff, worn-through timbre as Britt Daniels of Spoon, a skeptical undercurrent against the band's relentlessly upbeat tunefulness. These are catchy songs, no question, and they don't veer away from conventional sentiment so much as they puncture it with sharp rhythms and giddy dissonances.

"Ff Ff Fire" is arguably the best cut, its soft murmurous verse winding in a low-key way through bubbling bass notes. Then, clang, clang, clang, a trio of power chords intimate that something big is coming. And come it does in the buoyant nonsense of the payoff chorus, sweeping you up like a warm current to who knows where. Power shifts from keyboard to guitar on these tracks, with a pixilated arpeggio of synthesizer defining "Sooner or Later," and a saw-toothed assault of six-string shaping "Big Mistake." "West of the Ten" gives over to Cure-like castles in the air, its slow beat hazed by ghostly washes of synthetic tone. Castillo saunters in casually over all kinds of sounds, tossing his verses sideways as if he didn't care, but he does.

The all-male, tough but tender vibe palls after a while, and after the midway, tracks start sounding the same. Just when you're ready to give up (and maybe go back to "Ff Ff Fire" for one more play), the final track "Alibi" eases into view. An exception in all ways, in its soft chiming reticence, in its REM-ish jangle in the unnamed female singer whose voice twines so prettily with Castillos, this song is the second clear highlight of an intriguing album. Black Swan Runners does the one thing - the jittery-sweet, loud-soft indie pop - quite well, and maybe it can do some others.


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