[sic] Magazine

IAN SWEET – Shapeshifter

Credit where it’s due, Shapeshifter is one of those albums that by all rights ought not to exist. Built on the loneliness and displacement of having relocated from Boston (where Jilian Bedford penned her debut cassette under the name IAN) to Brookyln, as well as against a backdrop of severe depression, panic attacks and abject heartbreak, Bedford peels herself off the canvass time and time again as her fuzzy guitar-pop gently unfolds, drummer Tim Cheney and bassist Damien Scalise seemingly deployed as her musical crutches. Even more miraculously she manages to dress up these bruised insights into her life in lively self-deprecation not unlike someone like Courtney Barnett, Bedford’s delightful vocal quiver often masking more serious messages beneath. When, for example, it’s not extolling the virtues of eating ice-cream in bed, second single, “All Skaters Go to Heaven”, drips with disinterest when the subject of prom comes up, as if the two exist only in parallel universes: “Beauty queen/ Seems unhealthy/ But it’s not me that you want/ It’s my funny haircut.” Bedford, though emotionally and mentally fragile, does have a wise head on her shoulders all the same, readily conceding on “Quietly Streaming” that the negativity “could all be in my head”, questioning too if she’s justified to feel the way she does. And, if you can’t relate with that, you’ve never lived.

Bedford has another coping mechanism, too, and it’s the chameleonic form referenced in the album title that she’s capable of adopting when needed. On Shapeshifter, this manifests as capricious bouts of strangely seductive dream-pop, whispery intimacy and/or cutesy nostalgia. Delicate, barely-there breathiness bumbles into melancholy fuzz-pop and awkward, shy experimentation, unsurprisingly heard most prominently on the title track. The results are variously reminiscent of a number of people without ever really recalling anyone consistently.

Shapeshifter’s defining moment inevitably arrives when it all comes together for Nickelodeon favourite and lead single “Slime Time Live”. Bedford is at her squeaky, creaking best throughout its charming, early Best Coast-like summery melodies, hints of shoegaze wooziness and psych-pop playfulness helping to cover her battle with television-bound depression: “Another five weeks ‘til it kicks in/ Then I won’t feel like dying,” she sings. Bedford toys with the mundane and everyday throughout, but these sentiments are far from ordinary no matter how plainly she paints them. That said, if it’s this part of Shapeshifter you relate to most, you can hopefully take solace from the fact you’re not alone in feeling that way and, as Bedford, subtly implies in places also that this too will pass.

Best track: “Slime Time Live”

~Shapeshifter is released September 23rd 2016 via Hardly Art.~