Black Swan Lane – Staring Down The Path Of Sound
By: Brett Spaceman
“Now you’re looking for the secret. But you won’t find it because of course, you’re not really looking. You want to be fooled.”
Black Swan Lane continues its arc from session based project to out-and-out band status with this forth long player. Jack Sobel always intended to take BSL on tour and this incarnation is fully fit for purpose.
The first two BSL albums were patchworks. Splendid, over-generous music compendiums they were, but patchworks nevertheless. I loved the intimacy of it all. But I felt they betrayed a sense of modesty that honestly, I didn’t want BSL to exhibit. They don’t deserve to be pegged as ‘decent’. These guys are far better than that as witnessed by their previous album, the truly great, Things You Know And Love. (Marginally) More svelt, more structured and ten times more impactful as a result, I placed it high in my 2010 round up and it hasn’t spent any significant time away from my player since.
Staring …. is a kind of continuation on certain levels and a progression on others. This album does not feature contributions from BSL’s Mancunian cronies. The ‘guest’ this time around is singer Lauren Fay who adds her exceptional tones to several of the pieces here. Guitars sound stronger than ever on this record as BSL punctuate their trademark dreamy ballads with tighter, more muscular pieces clearly written with the gigs in mind. Yet while BSL are undoubtedly melodic, Jack Sobel’s vocal is hypnotic. Whether unconsciously or by design, the man’s lyrics are 99% confined to one or two syllable words. This, almost binary, approach creates a rhythmic, lilting, swaying effect. The vocal acts as a secondary bass-line in this respect.
Can this be the ‘secret’?
After four albums it’s hard to know what BSL have to do to convince the masses. It’s equally hard for me to decide what to write. Reviewing BSL is like explaining magic. Do people really want that? This is music. You feel it. It doesn’t need to be explained away. I could mention The Smiths (again) but it isn’t even quite that. The music of BSL is like Hatful Of Hollow. Fans of The Smiths from the very beginning will know exactly what I mean. That record bundled sessions, b-sides and more acoustic led versions and yet it surpassed the studio albums The Smiths and Meat Is Murder in the hearts and minds of the true fans. That, for me, summarises BSL more than any analytical deconstruction ever could.