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101 Avenue A - New York, NY

Swear Tapes

Swear Tapes. Swear Tapes. Swear Tapes. Hell’s that mean? I don’t know, but I like it. I picture swear words drawn on strips of duct tape with fat Sharpies. I picture mix tapes with pen-darkened spines. I like secrets. I like mysteries. Swear Tapes is a mystery.  


Some things I know for sure: this debut album from Swear Tapes, Second Son, feels like waking up in the middle of a wild road. It’s an album that reminds me of smoking cigarettes under a flickering lamppost in a storm. It’s got the dirty hum of the universe in it, like an old abandoned hotel full of teenagers in the summer.     


Some other known things: Jim Barrett and Will Eubanks recorded this from the beginning of 2016 until the summer of 2017 in Eubanks’s cabin north of Oxford, Mississippi. The songs tell Barrett’s story: one was written for his old band Young Buffalo (“Money”), another for his old band ILLLs (“Teeth”), but they’re alive in new ways here. The more recent material (“Mantra,” “Why Do We Wait?”) points in the direction that Swear Tapes is headed: sonic warmth, love letters sung in strange frequencies.  


The themes on display are classic as hell: the photogenic fire of youth; getting older; recklessness; still being broke; the thirst for making it; the fear of collapse. “Why Be” is a perfect prelude, allowing you to orient yourself to the timelessness of what’s to come. “Right Now” is catchy, hooky, a thrill; it’s perfect for kissing or getting run over by a train. “Blasé Blasé” is like the first time you ever got drunk on wine and punched someone a foot shorter than you. “Looxahoma (Interlude)” sounds like a score to a paranoid Western, with sweeping pedal steel from Kell Kellum. Kellum also provides pedal steel on closer “Mantra,” which is perfect for the credits of some scuzzed-out ‘70s daydream movie that never existed. This album’s got range.  


Barrett’s influences are varied: ELO; Shintaro Sakamoto; The Kinks; Arthur Russell; Love; maybe a whiff of solo McCartney. It’s a pop record, to be sure, but it edges into dark territory: a shadowy forest that glows with otherworldly light. You could really get hung up in these songs. You should.    

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