Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Sway - Rock Bottom

Sway - Blackberries

Just like most other types of music I listen to, I'm pretty picky when it comes to country (or alt country or no depression or whatever else you wanna call it). In fact, I don't like much country at all and if I do, it usually has an old-timey feeling to it or is influenced by folk as well. Occasionally, though, a band comes along and changes the way you think about a particular genre. Sway did that for me, spun me around and made actually like country music. Well, at least made me like their country music.

Rock Bottom is Sway's second release, the first being the double disc Music Forever. Truth be told, I'm more a fan of their debut album, but Rock Bottom still has plenty to love. Plus, it has a raccoon on the cover. How can you not like that?

Sway is a trio consisting of Catie-Rae, Lillie, and Chris and while they all share vocal duties, it's Catie-Rae that is in the forefront. With good reason, too, as she has a wonderfully unique voice that immediately pulls you in upon first hearing Sway. It's easy going and charming, a perfect match for the music. With guitars, mandolins, banjos, and light percussion, everything just flows nicely and is super catchy. They're the sort of songs that you find yourself singing along to, not even realizing you knew the words. Soon enough, they'll be stuck in your head (especially "Leigh Cheri" and "Hated") and you'll be singing them everywhere you go. People will be asking, "What song are you singing?" And you'll be able to tell them, "Oh, it's just some little country band from Boston called Sway." And then you can feel all cool and stuff, because everyone is always trying to find awesome bands nobody has heard of.

On it's own, Rock Bottom is fantastic. But my only issue with it is when I compare it to Sway's debut. It doesn't seem to have the same sort of magical feeling that Music Forever has (despite the cover art). No songs about moms or mermaids ("Mermaid" was one of my favorites from their debut) and gone are the little laughs found before and after some the songs. Also, Rock Bottom has much better production values (thanks to Chris), which I wasn't too into at first. It's probably not noticeable if Rock Bottom is the only record of theirs you've heard, but there was some grit to Music Forever that I really dug and I thought it fit Sway's sound very well. But upon many, many listens to Rock Bottom, I have grown to embrace the clean sounds and realize it's probably better for them to head in this direction.

Rock Bottom is self released (you can buy both of their albums on their MySpace page for $8 each) featuring awesome cover art from the unequaled Jeff Havens as well as photocopied inserts designed by Catie-Rae. I highly recommend both of their records, even if you're afraid of country music. I promise this will put a smile on your face, regardless of what type of music you listen to. Also, it should be noted, that I'm friends with these people but I assure you that I am capable of writing entirely unbiased reviews. For real.

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