By Abby Jeffers, Contributor
[Hardly Art; 2018]
Key Tracks: “Hiding”, “Holographic Jesus”, “Bug Museum”
In a discordant follow-up to 2016’s Shapeshifter, indie rock musician IAN SWEET has dropped her sophomore album, Crush Crusher – an album all about “self-image, self-respect/worth, and the responsibility [frontwoman Jillian Medford] has felt to others,” according to the band’s Bandcamp. This is a theme that is obvious as Medford revels in the chaos of these ten tracks.
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The album opens with “Hiding”, a spectacularly delicate track that contrasts echoing, breathy vocals with a touch of distortion in the guitar strumming. Even in its heaviest choruses of fuzzy guitar, Medford’s vocals maintain that soft texture. It’s about the falling-apart of a relationship after Medford struggled with sharing all of herself with someone, and the song is almost bittersweet as she croons, “I forgot myself in you.”
Crush Crusher is an indie-rock album that seems typical of IAN SWEET, and it sounds almost like a mildly heavier take on bands like Adult Mom. The difference comes in Medford’s comfort with dissonance, however, and her unusual melodies that sound like they ought to clash with the background chords, but somehow work with the theme of the album. This is especially evident in tracks like “Holographic Jesus”, where Medford’s soft vocals do not always line up perfectly with the instrumental as she sings about the responsibility to take care of her loved ones (“The sun built me to shade everybody”). The combination of her repetition of certain lyrics and the dissonant guitar picking here adds to a building of tension, layering more and more anticipation before finally bursting into what feels like a release of the weight of feeling obligated to play the caretaker.
Later, in “Bug Museum”, a similar theme appears: it seems more straightforward and simple, with a near-perfect blend of guitar and vocals so neither threatens to overwhelm the other, but there is a constant drone of barely-there, high-pitched synth in the background that adds a glistening tone to the otherwise sweet track.
These uncommon melodies and unexpected chord progressions are exactly what makes the music Medford’s. However, it is truly a sound that reflects her attitudes about her own self-worth and her internalized care-taking of friends, whether that shows in the highly rhythmic “Crush Crusher” or the obvious elements of distress as she wails in “Falling Fruit”. It is grungier and more chaotic than Shapeshifter, but Medford savors the turmoil as it appears in her dissonant indie rock.