Independent Clauses | n. —unusual words about underappreciated music

Brainswarm's weirdness causes my brain to itch

February 10, 2010

Friendly Psychics Music, as I have recently explained, is a bit out there. Sometimes their weirdness is endearing. Sometimes it’s visionary. Sometimes it’s just weird.

“Just plain weird” is the case with Brainswarm‘s self-titled 5-song EP. I’m used to odd vocals, disjointed song structures and peculiar sound choices from FPM, but Brainswarm is confusing on top of that. Instead of just being fully weird, Brainswarm’s modus operandi is to fuse the peculiar aesthetics indigenous to FPM onto pop songs. And not just indie-pop songs, but straight-up, guitar-jangle, REM-esque pop songs. “Perspectives” has wildly swooping vocals, weird background vocals, and odd noises in the background. But the majority of the song sounds like it could have busted out of the late eighties or early nineties. The bridge redeems the song significantly, but the whole thing is just a tough swallow. The goofy asides at the beginning of songs don’t help the feel that something is off, either.

“Soulship,” however, injects some direction into this otherwise peculiar release. Somewhere between a power-ballad and a wasted-earth pan shot (the latter of which comprises some of the best songs in the FPM catalog), the song pulses along with an otherworldly energy. The vocals sound desperate and certain at the same time, lending an eerie mood to the already off-putting precedings. It’s the track with the most atmosphere and the most successful outcome. Also, it doesn’t sound anything like Michael Stipe. And that helps.

“Brain Swarm” taps into the same vein that “Soulship” hit at the beginning, but it proceeds into guitar stomp that sets it back. It just feels weird against the mood that they had previously set up.

Brainswarm’s self-titled EP is one of the more confusing things that I’ve heard in a while. It is a strange brew, and not one that sits well with me. “Soulship” is great, but the rest of the release leaves me scratching my head. I’d suggest a Dishwater Psychics release or Derecho’s latest for those interested in Friendly Psychics.

Stephen Carradini and Lisa Whealy write reviews of instrumental, folk, and singer/songwriter music. We write about those trying to make the next step in their careers and established artists.

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