A Shame Play
Swayze doesn’t command attention; they attract it. Sure, the group is a bit folksy, softly driven by acoustic guitars and filled out by a bass, drums and occasional horns. But there’s clearly an intention of pop and rock-n-roll in here as well, finessed out of their normally strict walls and molded into something more evasive. Swayze lives in margins and subtleties, like an afterthought or feeling — the music that comes on during a movie’s closing credits. There’s something organic here, something comfortable and faint, and I wonder if the band itself even knows what it is. It just clicks.
Think the Weakerthans’ “One Great City!” or some of the softer moments from the Features — but those aren’t exactly Swayze either. This is a band whose melody frames language, particularly in phrasing as articulate as it is simplistic. Like the music itself, the lyrics are presented a bit below the radar, commanding attention with nonchalance. Take the album’s closing track, a quiet and well-harmonized finger-snapper called “Benediction.” “With just a little foresight, with just a little restraint, with just a little you can / empathize with princes, priests and whores across the world / Just remember: The details make the bad days seem all right / like how her face moves into a smile on your chest at night.” On paper, those words are a tall order: overly dramatic, ambitious and image-heavy. From Swayze, though, they’re soft and smart, the road on which a melody travels. And it’s like that throughout the album — a balance of tones, a blending of genres, a see-saw parallel to the ground.