About six years ago, shortly after starting a new job, I stumbled across Sailship, an electronic, Owl City-adjacent project that felt like a sort of guilty pleasure. It’s not that the music was bad or cheesy, but it was certainly counter to a lot of the rock-oriented music I prefer. Project mastermind Mark Swickley has a knack for crafting quirky, synth-based music. But somewhere over the last 6 years, he’s gone missing.
Interestingly enough, I’m on the cusp of a new job right now and I managed to stumble into Swickley’s new project at the perfect time. It’s odd to frame different points in time with different pieces of art, but I guess that’s just a good way to anchor my memory here and there. I remember commuting from the middle of nowhere, living in a house where the owner kept the table he was born on, trying to navigate this strange new world. Six years later, I’m wiser and a bit worse for wear.
The Clear Coast seems to show a similar development for Swickley. This time, he’s accompanied by a few friends – vocalist Jess Nelson and drummer Isaac Percival. There’s still a piano and synth foundation, but there’s definitely more going on in terms of percussion and Nelson’s voice has a nice edge to it. The vocal rhythms still have that Stickley feel to them, too. But there is a bit less fanfare here and the synth tones are more organic. It’s more indie, and less pop. But arguably, it works. It feels more balanced. It shimmers with wider appeal.
Now, on the very last day of the year, the trio are releasing their second single, “Rose Gold”. The track shows a bit more of a glitchier electronic angle, but it’s largely ornamental. Where you might expect a bass drop, drums kick in instead. There are a few production nuances thrown in that nod back to Swickley’s earlier work as well. Lyrically, “Rose Gold” continues with the theme of romance, seeming to discuss the moment of a marriage proposal. There are group vocals capping things off, but like much of the song, the strength here is in the subtlety. Don’t expect a pop punk gang chant.
As we close out the year, The Clear Coast have given us a song about new beginnings. That applies just as much to the sonic textures at play and the overall direction of this new project. If you’re looking for an ambitious piano pop project to soothe your nerves, this is an act to watch.