Written by Jonelle Mandseth
SWMRS. Yes, this is indeed the name of the beach-punk, alternative, modern rock, I-don’t-even-know-how-to-describe-them-because-they’re-so-good band of 20-somethings that are making incredibly enticing music like nothing you’ve heard before. So good, in fact, you’ll find yourself running out of breath trying to read all of the adjectives crammed into sentences about them.
Immediately upon discovery – via a photo on Twitter, might I add -I was drawn to these guys. They just appeared so cool. Maybe it was the green hair, or the clothes that screamed “I don’t care about your opinion on the way I express myself.” They looked like a band who had purpose and determination, a reason for creating with passion engraved into their music. Whatever it was, I was digging it. I obviously needed to check out their sound too.
I’ll admit, I didn’t fully listen to their debut album, Drive North, right off the get go. In fact, I started with their first single off the album, “Figuring It Out.” Within 30 seconds I knew that I wasn’t going to be listening to anything else for a looooong time. It made me feel so connected to the music, especially with lyrics like “Internet scams and waistcoats, we’re just scapegoats all too dumb”, and “Was I made to function, or create, or just get bored?” I related to it in a way that I’ve never related to music before. In fact, I was so excited, I called one of my friends and screamed into the phone about how amazing it felt to finally discover real, raw talent again.
Following my excitement over “Figuring It Out”, I immediately dove into Drive North. Tracks like “Harry Dean”, “Brb” and “Uncool” prove themselves to be fast-paced, upbeat tracks that generally just make you want to run around and scream at things (but in a good way, of course.) With lyrics following the desire to let loose and carve your own path, these guys could have easily been the stereotypical pop artists you hear on mainstream radio. Instead, lead vocalist Cole Becker’s almost-raspy, relatively-low, yet highly-intriguing vocals are layered over guitar tracks and drum beats you’d find yourself listening to while moshing in a pit at some punk-rock beach festival with a bunch of high strangers. Mixing blatant (but still pleasing) screams with lyrics that make you want to go out and do something in the world, SWMRS prove that they know how to get their message across to the right audience.
The most attention-grabbing song on the album is “Miley”, which is about, you guessed it, Miley Cyrus. However, instead of contributing to some of the bashing and critical ridicule Cyrus has received over the years, the track takes a stance in opposition to that of the majority of the general public, showing listeners that it is acceptable to disagree with popular opinion. Sounding like it’s being directly played off a mid-80’s record player, the song progressively increases its tempo and is exactly the kind of music your teenage self needed to hear after a blowout with your parents. At the same time, it’s the song you’ll find yourself screaming at the top of your lungs in the shower as you wash out the new hair colour it inspired you to try, and it’s absolutely brilliant.
If screaming about pop stars isn’t your thing, Drive North manages to incorporate a number of slower, more acoustic, but equally as fun numbers such as “Miss Yer Kiss”, “Ruining My Pretending”, and “Hannah”. With simple chord sequences and ample sing-along ability, these songs are what you’ll find yourself jamming around a campfire to, likely with your new friends who share the same compassion for “quality talent with important messages” as you.
Title track “Drive North” closes off the album, and does full justice in going out with a bang. Once again equipped with pleasant screaming and mosh-worthy guitar and drum tracks, this song is probably the greatest ending to an album, like, ever. It’s completely exhilarating and will make you want to spray paint everything in your apartment. And in the streets. And all over billboards. In a good way, I think.
SWMRS are the band that the music scene needs now, and Drive North is the album that needs to be in everyone’s library. Incorporating messages that need to be heard, but doing so in a way that doesn’t make you want to rip your eardrums out, basically puts this album at the top of the “All-Time, Greatest, Most-Important Things Ever” list. Seriously, it’s ear-heaven, and the best thing to hit 2016.
Have you listened to SWMRS’ Drive North? Thoughts?
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