[sic] Magazine

Black Swan Lane – Blind

I’ve been told that Atlanta, GA is something of an Anglophile city. Case in point, local act Manchester Orchestra are so named because of their love for that other city’s music. If that’s the case then Jack Sobels’ Black Swan Lane should really call themselves ‘Definitive Manchester Band’ because their music has been a veritable love letter to that rainy, hum drum town.

Latest album Blind is the bands tenth, embracing elements of dreampop, alt rock, shoegaze, and post punk. It begins in signature BSL style. With its propulsive drumming and staccato guitars, ‘Wishful’ feels very much out of the BSL, opening track playbook. It’s a surprise then when the chorus is revealed to be a lighter, dreamier affair. However any apparent cosiness is belied by the songs barbed lyrics. This lyrical/musical polarity is somewhat a theme of the whole album and perhaps exemplified on ‘The Fool’, a blissful track whose swaying, dub reggae bassline helps to build a pastoral soundscape while the words themselves, loaded with doubt and struggle, try to tear it back down again. “I’m a fool to keep going” Sobel croaks. He isn’t. The only fools are the ones who haven’t boarded the BSL train some time ago.

Blind is excellent. An acquaintance recently asked me, ‘How are you able to review the same band ten times in a row?’ I think my answer surprised the both of us. You see, I’m not sure I have. The “same” band, I mean. Black Swan Lane has changed a lot with each iteration. There’s been the collective, the core duo and, fleetingly, a full band. It’s now Sobel solo (he’s doing everything here) but he doesn’t want to just repeat and fade. Renewal is the order of the day and Blind is succeeding because of its subtleties – the fizzing electronics of the title track, the ‘vacuum cleaner’ microphone (on ‘Can’t Keep Me Quiet’) and that incredible choral break in the middle of dusty cowboy ride, ‘The Calling’. These are just a few of many clever touches that mark this album out as something more than just listenable and more than just… more BSL. Can I be alone, I wonder, in thinking ‘Angel’ sounds like Christmas? It’s exactly what we needed though as we hit the bleak midwinter – something to warm our hearts from the cold.

Jack Frost 0 – Jack Sobel 1.

This years curveball comes in the form of ‘In The Garden With Eve’, a track that leans heavily upon neo-psychedelic stalwarts, The Church, or even Felt, albeit with a splash of OMD electronics. Sobel pulls it off but at the expense of his greatest asset, his rich, woodbine voice, locked away in favour of a murmured soliloquy. The’ garden’ leads us into the heart of this album and to a staggering sequence of tracks where the unquestionable highlight is a song called ‘Case My Mind’. I do know that Black Swan Lane has suffered as much as benefited from certain musical comparisons in the past. All I can say is Manchester Orchestra better start looking for another city because no one will top this. It goes wider though. ‘Fragile’ evokes The Teardrop Explodes or even The Doors, ‘Drown’ is out of the classic dreampop mould and closing track ‘Nothing Here To See’ feels like they switched out Sobel for White LiesHarry McVeigh.

In the space of just a few days, Blind has become one of my personal favourite BSL releases and this is as much down to what it isn’t trying to do as what it is. For a group that began life sounding like a certain other group, BSL are now becoming a band that sounds like no other.


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