It’s hard for an album released in early spring to not, in some way, reference sex. Harder still is it to avoid the elephant in the room when said album is filled with twittering guitar riffs, falsetto “Ooh’s” and “Ahh’s,” and barely-there vocals. So, just in time for the last nail in Winter’s coffin, the French Kicks’ latest EP, Swimming
, arrives with a few more reasons to shed those constricting layers and let loose.
Taking a small, but calculated step away from their once steadfast foot in the post-punk tradition, the New York natives polish their sound for their self-produced, fourth release. The album kicks off with a duo of warm, sugary pop beats—“Abandon” and “ Over the World”—acquainting hand claps and quivering cymbals with stammering chords and vapor-like vocals to produce two harmonious tracks that belong beachside—with a tank-top and Wayfarers.
On “New Man,” another standout from the album, they honor their new wave intuition with a familiar harmony of barreling guitar runs and synthesizers. The effect—a soothing sound that at once inspires attention and thoughtlessness. This pervasive weightless (read, sex-like) sensation is pleasantly replicated over and over on Swimming
, though some tracks suggest a melancholy beneath the album’s carefree exterior.
An exception to the otherwise upbeat uniformity is “Sex Tourists,” one of the more raw, intimate songs of the album. Vocalist Nick Stumpf reflects on times “when we’re lying on the ground/and we’re vibrating somewhere” while mourning “you’ll never be a part of me I know.” Stumpf’s drowning, self-conscious moans mimics the same floating sense of urgency, feathering downward here, rather than upward like the rest of the tracks.
Fans looking for the sound of their previous releases may find comfort in “This Could Go Wrong.” Devoid of the predictable twists and aimless percussion the band was once scorned for, the track, like “Sex Tourists,” refines raw elements, marrying no-frills turns and drumbeats with the same restrained experimentation found on the rest of the album.
Though carefully preserved intimations of their garage-band past remain intact, this welcome detour boasts a new clarity and maturity. The reigned-in whims on Swimming
display a reconciliation of raw impulse and thought that may portend an even more promising future for the well-deserving veterans. And, even if the album’s innovation and airy breeze are not enough to float the French Kicks to a new career high, Swimming
will, at least, deliver a spurt of joy and a sigh of relief that—exhale—spring has arrived.