A relatively new band to the Seattle music scene, indie folk-rock band the Black Swedes is made up of Ian Bell (formerly of sea.mine) on guitar and lead vox, Matt Benham on guitar and backing vocals, and recent addition Jon Wooster handling bass and more back-up vocals (Matt and Jon played together in Argo, a now-defunct favorite of mine, which is how I—full disclaimer—know the very sweet Mr. Wooster, and how I became familiar with this band).
Catching up with The Black Swedes is a 3-disc box set comprised of their first release, The Tempest, and a full-length of previously unreleased tracks, Things I’ve Tried to Misplace, plus a couple of bonus songs. They’ll be offering this set at their upcoming High Dive show on October 21 for only $10 (!!!)—packaged with a sticker and a small poster.
The Tempest, which TIG reviewed in 2009, is a lush mix of folk-rock that comes on strong. It sounds familiar and new all at once (not an easy trick), and draws you in immediately. The tracks on disc 2 are just as intimate. The music reaches out for your ears, allowing you to ease into it at your own pace.
Just to name a few of the tunes that really stand out to me, let’s start with “Warm Me Up”, which is a swayingly-good tune, showcased by haunting vocals that fade out and leave you wanting more. “I have known I’ve wanted this all along” is a good anthem for falling in love, non?
“The Moon” turns up the positive with hand-clapping enthusiasm and poppy melodies, while still somehow referencing emotional distress in the lyrics. “The moon said you weren’t yourself, but neither was I”.
“Please Let Me Down Slowly” is the opposite of that, dripping with sorrow and regret, but so beautifully arranged that you might not notice (or if you’re like me, you might disintegrate into sobs while listening). “Who’d you run to” indeed.
Leaning towards the dark side, the raw vocals on “I Once Loved a Girl” bring out a lot of gruesome imagery, layered over a beautiful background of haunting strings; “I once loved a girl /But she left me for you / But I’m feeling better since I stabbed you both / In the bed he bought”. Not surprisingly, it’s one of my favorites.
Altogether, it’s a complete package of heart-breaking longing meant for contemplation and stirring up feelings long buried. It continues to grow on me with each listen, and I know it’ll become one of my frequent go-tos for long, meandering walks.
Thus, I heartily endorse you get yourselves down to the show to see them live and pick up this set. I can’t think of a better way to spend a dreamy musical evening in Seattle.
Catching up with the Black Swedes Complete track listing:
please let me down slowly
I will only love you more
I once loved a girl
power in the union
warm me up
i’d come gladly
god can’t claim