Curtail – When the Sway Sets

I’ve tried to start this review about four or five times, and every time I’ve tried, I close the draft without saving, which isn’t quite as satisfying as tearing a piece of paper out of a typewriter, crumpling it, and tossing it into a trashcan, but I try to do it with the same energy. Even right now, I’m resisting the urge to do the exact same thing. The thing of it is, I just can’t figure out some witty talking point, tangentially relevant anecdote, or relevant cultural touchstone to point to to describe why this record is so good. It’s just really good, and I’m having a hard time communicating exactly why that is.

In the simplest terms, this record is just fun. It bounces with a rock and roll energy that might not seem to be too revolutionary at first blush, but it defies easy categorization. There are moments of 90s alt-rock—both of the Smashing Pumpkins and Beck varieties. There’s the breezy effortlessness of indie rock (my brain wants me to say Interpol. It doesn’t sound like Interpol, but it does have a similarly innate coolness to it). There are subtle glimmers of emo sensibilities, a la Jimmy Eat World’s more mainstream records. There are even some hints of Pinegrove-esque alt-country. And around all of this is a vibrant atmosphere that frequently bursts into HUM-style fuzz.

It is infectiously inviting. Its catchiest moments (“Under Daisies,” “I.D.K.”) are so chock full of hooks it’s impossible to walk by without snagging yourself. The more spacious tracks though (“Revelry,” “Into the Particle,” “Other Plane”) are simply spellbinding. Every part of the album pulls its weight: stellar instrumental performances elevate the already impeccable songwriting, and the production wraps everything up in the exact right mixture of grit and sheen.

Even as I struggle to explain it, I find myself bopping my head. I swivel my hips as much as my chair will let me, tapping my fingers along with the drums as they rest idly on the keyboard as I try to coax stubborn words out of my mind. I might be struggling to get my brain around it, but my heart and my body are already fully engaged. I suppose it’s similar to how I struggle to explain bands like Mock Orange or Spoon. There’s not really a gimmick or trope that they’re resting on: it’s just really, really good. And honestly, that should be enough. If for some reason you are still reading, do yourself a favor and close out of this tab and put this record on instead.

When the Sway Sets is out now through Friend Club Records.

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