[sic] Magazine

The Summer Kills – Last Night We Became Swans

The Summer Kills is a side project from leading ambient dreampop act Hammock (Andrew Thompson and Marc Byrd) working with Americana singer-songwriter Matthew Ryan. As featured in our First Glances series debut album, Last Night We Became Swans is the culmination of a seven year collaborative process. Much has been made of the apparent contrast between Ryan’s honest, rock ‘n’ roll style vs the Nashville duo’s more celestial musings. I prefer to move swiftly past this subject as, a) our first concern must always be the music and, b) it’s been done to death elsewhere. Hasn’t music always been about contrasts anyway?

Previous Hammock output has tended to alternate between cinematic ambiance and fizzing electronica. This iteration certainly leans toward the poppier side of the Hammock oeuvre. Shoegaze has often been the template for indietronica acts. Hammock have always been a bit more than just indietronica (although they too have supped from that particular well, brilliantly covering Catherine Wheel’s landmark ‘Black Metallic’.) and certainly under the guise of The Summer Kills the remit feels a lot more ambitious. The blueprint here is distinctly stadium. ….Swans is a monster of a record, huge sounding, in scope, subject and performances. Where previously we might have found Hammock in the ‘chill out’ tent, The Summer Kills are emerging onto the main Festival stage, waving flags and ready to headline. It isn’t the first time I’m put in mind of U2 while listening to this album. ‘Collide’, despite its Balearic stomp, quietly evokes Bono and co and there are numerous Edge/Lanois guitar moments across the record.

The irony of the song title ‘Like New Years Day’ is not lost on this scribe.

As for Matthew Ryan, his typically Springsteen-esque croon is foregone in favour of a more breathy, oxygenated spuma. These are more lovers whispers than songs. Ryan gasps rarefied air like an overwhelmed explorer. In this sense he is our perfect avatar as it is us who are the amazed onlookers in this picture. ….Swans is an epic, widescreen experience with comparable grandeur and reverence to acts like The Blue Nile. As well as evoking the ‘Big Sound’ likes of U2 and Waterboys, there’s a touch of Disintergration era- Cure from time to time and ‘Don’t Go Away’ or ‘Stop’ could even be Coldplay …if only the Londoners grew a pair.

Was it the addition of Ryan that led to this directional shift? Or did his inclusion simply inspire the music that followed? We may never know but The Summer Kills doesn’t feel like one of those collaborations where mp3s were e-mailed back and forth. I more get the impression that those seven years were spent refining, reworking …..perfecting. It was clearly worth the wait.

This is a fire The Summer Kills wanted to make unforgettable.

“We are challenger(s)”, Ryan implores near the albums conclusion. “We are challengers versus stars”

Album Of The Year challengers you may well be but Gentlemen, from where I’m standing, you are nothing less than Stars.

First Glances


Album of the year 2016

Top ten albums of 2017