Swearin, Surfing Strange
Swearin’s music has nothing to do with the beach, but Surfing Strange is a fine title to describe where the casually accomplished four-piece finds itself on its second album. The Philadelphia-via-Brooklyn band is poised at the crest of several consecutive waves: Where 2012′s self-titled debut fit neatly into a revival of “indie rock” bands that sounded like a specific, latter-1990s ideal of the genre, the latest from Swearin’ coincides with a spate of often female-led bands whose rickety indie rock bleeds over into peppy pop-punk (see: Upset, Potty Mouth and frontwoman Allison Crutchfield’s twin sister Katie’s band Waxahatchee). Those are favorable comparisons, sure, but a big part of what’s appealing about Swearin’ — and, to an extent, the Crutchfield sisters’ previous band P.S. Eliot — is the way its members sound like they’re just chasing their own off-kilter muses.
Surfing Strange should please fans of similar groups while at the same time stretching out what counts as “similar groups.” Crutchfield still comes off like her favorite band is the Breeders, and fellow singer-guitarist Kyle Gilbride (also of Big Soda) still obviously adores Superchunk, but this album is richer and more varied than its predecessor. Take “Loretta’s Flowers,” which furthers the stripped-down balladry of the debut’s “Divine / Mimosa” and includes the following heartbreaking Crutchfield quotable: “When you get older you’ll realize this wasn’t love / This wasn’t love.” Or see the delicately loping “Glare of the Sun,” which adds keys and stretches out toward Elephant 6 psych-pop. Best of all, though, Surfing Strange can be more flat-out, sugar-buzz explosive than its predecessor, too: Cub-reminiscent rush “Young Energy,” especially, lives up to its name. When Crutchfield sings about “the crunch of the black ice” on first single “Dust in the Gold Sack,” it’s a triumphant wipeout.