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Swan Island

The Centre Will Hold

(16 Records; US: 26 Oct 2006; UK: Available as import)

A barrage of bracing estrogen-powered post-punk continues the lineage of Delta 5, the Au Pairs, and Lora Logic.  Swan Lake shares geography, as well as social ties, with the late great Sleater-Kinney (their drummer appeared in the “Jumpers” video), but musically, they hark back a good bit earlier.  Their jittery, scattery dual guitar assault leaves room for anxiety, for trembling sweetness and vulnerability, just as Delta 5’s double bass structures did, while their hard-rock-leaning riffage calls to mind 1980s commercial metal like Def Leppard.  The best cut is “Crumble”, whose taut, metal-tinged guitar riffs crack a whip under singer Brisa Gonzalez’s warbly haunt of a voice.  Ultra-tight, ultra-staccato, the band crafts beat-driven riffs that are at once off-kilter and supremely danceable, all stuttery bass and clattering break-beat drums.  “Junk Parade” is almost as good, a touch slower, bass and drum architecture showing under strop-sharp guitar dialogue.  Gonzalez howls like a banshee (or a Banshee) in this one, but it’s the slower cut, “Tracks”, where her softer side shows, velvety and warm as Chrissie Hynde in ballad mode.  There’s a bizarre hidden track at the end of “Grey Matter”, a crazy post-modernist violin-and-piano duet that hints at classical training, but don’t think for a minute that Swan Island is not about fun.  Just by accident, I ended up listening to Swan Island and like-mindedly female-led, post-punk (and also Portland-based) Wet Confetti the same week—and, what do you know, Swan Island came out ahead.

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