The last 18 months of the pandemic have touched everybody’s lives to a greater or lesser degree – sure there have been some good times, but for a young band having their industry pulled from under their feet it could have spelled the end. Instead, we see Swim School take a step back from their earlier material and really dig deep into who they are, and rise up to deliver a euphonious EP that retains their addictive musical hooks and fuses them with a heavier sound for a more personal outing.
Straight out of the box we’re treated to some dirty beats and chiming, urgent guitar that sets the tone of Let Me Inside Your Head, providing us with a darker, angrier tone. Alice Johnson’s emotive voice rides the track like a storm, rising and falling with the undercurrent of angry percussion and frantic guitar and bass – expertly using her impassioned vocals as she sings ‘Let me inside your head, so I can feel instead‘, the track growing in stature until it’s climactic end.
Anyway dials back on the heavier tones for something a little more melodic with its poppier hooks that create an interesting juxtaposition against the first track. The band describes the EP as a journey through the difficulties they have faced over the last year and the change in tone to something more sugar-coated yet with dysphoric themes only serves to instill that feeling you have when you put on a brave face despite emotional trauma you may be feeling inside.
Next up Everything You Wanted starts with a slow, subtle soundscape of synths and melancholy vocals that look introspectively, questioning your own thoughts and feelings, tinged with regret. As the track began to build I could feel the goosebumps on my arm prickle as the words ‘Everything you wanted…‘ echo repeatedly through the impassioned final act of the track. This is a track that I can’t wait to hear live!
Things become altogether angrier and more urgent with See Red as the percussion and rhythm become more forceful and single-minded, serving to amplify the dark feelings we have when we are betrayed by those closest to us, the jittery guitar slicing through the track like a sharp tongue with words that cut like a knife.
The EP is bought to a close with the track Outside that really highlights how the band are evolving their sound by fusing together elements of dream pop with indie and post-punk for a refreshingly accessible sound that still carries with it high energy and passion that gels it all together.
Overall Making Sense Of It All is a fantastic debut EP from Swim School that’s left me wanting more, with its catchy hooks and dark yet beautiful lyrics that take challenge and adversity and turns them into something more determined, passionate, and empowering.
Words by Charles Palmer