Sweet Teeth – Body Weather

Applying deconstruction toward musical interpretation is a rational method that can be approached in more than one practice. The explicit method is one that’s rooted in praxis. (think music reviews). The often overlooked method – at least from a critic’s standpoint – is one that can be ingrained in the music itself and derived through repetition. When musicians set out to create a song, it’s pretty often that you’re coming across repeating parts: chorus, verse, bridge, etc. From song to song, no matter the genre or style, repetition is typically the factor that contributes to a hit song. It has to be catchy, right?

In my music listening, it’s only every so often that I’ll come across implicit deconstruction and be blown away by the execution. A band that typically comes to mind first when I’m on this discussion is electronic-pop band Sweet Teeth, who released its fourth LP Body Weather in March. The experimental progressive two-piece understands this concept from both classical and pop culture stances. Through my own experience meeting the band members, it can also be said that the two understand each other on a more personal level than most musicians. 

Stewart and Sam Johnson are brothers and friends who make music together. The former is self-trained, while the latter is proficient in the classical field. The result of the brothers coming together to make music is Sweet Teeth, which can range from early Animal Collective eclectic absurdity to the academic intricacies of composers like Julius Eastman. Both are valid, and both help us to understand music a little more.

Lyrically, this album wastes no time in dipping into the realm of deconstruction, tapping into the mundane lifestyle cycles that the pandemic has produced: “June ends and September begins/Every month is February.” We’re hearing these words through bird chirps and melancholy guitar tones, which brings about the euphoric sense that we sometimes feel at the first crack of spring. This sentiment is even expressed visually – bright pink, red, orange, and yellow flowers line the album cover of Body Weather. Something else that is very clear from these first words is the progression of Stewart’s voice and how with each successive release it continues to soar. This could be due to the consistency of who has mixed and mastered the past three Sweet Teeth projects: multi-instrumentalist Glenn Davis, who himself has one of the more inventive voices I’ve heard on record.

There are many bright-sounding moments on this record: “Eating Peaches,” “Soft Boys,” and “Hypertense” immediately come to mind. However, the five or so times I’ve listened through this record, it’s the mood shift at the middle that floors me every time. The fourth track, “Spider Bite,” starts out with more outdoor bustling: crickets chirping and a tranquil click that paces the track quite nicely. The four-verse song uses a spider bite as a way of documenting the lyricist’s journey through love. A necessary part of deconstruction is the act of absorbing a text or idea over and over again. We’re not necessarily being introduced to new ideas with each verse, but strings and trippy blips are sprinkled onto the song, being added in order to provide the listener with a new perspective throughout the same work of art. It’s like we’re listening to the entrance and departure of a spaceship.

As energizing as the first half of this album is, it’s the turn that the LP takes at “Spider Bite” that solidifies this group as one of Columbus’ most intriguing gems. There are deep introspections on romance all throughout the album, and it’s only once “Spider Bite” creeps up on you that you’re really centered in on this theme. 

Sweet Teeth is still tapping into the energy that launched their first album back in 2014. The contained chaos of “ … and it’s a Beautiful Day” and “Hypertense;” the buzziness of “City of Fern;” the bounciness of “Soft Boys.” All of these songs contribute to Stewart and Sam’s exclusive take on pop music, a self-taught musician and a classically trained cellist respectively. Both approach the process of creating songs differently but yet still are able to tackle one of the more daunting themes to take on in art in deconstruction.

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