04.28.13 — “What I Know” by Sway

Andrew Saks (Sway)

If you only listen to one song tonight, make it “What I Know” by Sway (2011, from the album This Was Tomorrow).

Sway is a dream-pop/shoegaze outfit from San Luis Obispo, California. It started in 1999 as a four-piece garage rock band in Ventura, and it eventually turned into a one-man show. Multi-instrumentalist Andrew Saks is definitely very influenced by shoegaze and dream-pop sensibilities, but there are a few other reference points that show up on This Was Tomorrow. A little bit of standard pop. A little bit of R&B. A little bit of 8-bit Nintendo. Mostly, though, this is a dream-pop record.

The debut album This Was Tomorrow came out in 2011, and although the four-piece had been broken up for a couple of years, all four original members had at least some contribution to this album. It was preceded by a bunch of EPs, and there hasn’t been anything since.

I had never heard of Sway, or of the fledgling Fort Worth, Texas label Saint Marie Records until I got something in the mailbag the other day about a few of their new releases. And something else from one of their bands. After I wandered around their website and sampled some of their delicious shoegaze-y offerings, I quickly added Saint Marie to my list of preferred record labels.

You can expect the next couple of weeks to be heavy with posts about Saint Marie bands.

Tonight, I’m starting with Sway.

“What I Know” by Sway

There’s absolutely no messing around here. Right off the bat, there’s a bath of sun-kissed dream-pop. So much reverb and delay and a warm wall of sound. It’s pretty obvious that Saks is heavily influenced by Slowdive.

It’s not enough to put me off, but it’s worth mentioning that there is a weird auto-tune thing on the vocals in the chorus. Actually, it’s pervasive, but it’s not heavy enough to make it annoying. There’s also just a tiny bit of vocal harmonization from who I can only guess is former band member Amber Carlson. Also, buried way under the wall of sound, there’s quite a bit of tuned percussion. Which always makes it easier for me to love something.

I didn’t notice those little things the first two or three times that I listened to the song. I was just enveloped by the guitar sounds. Upon repeated listens, as the story always goes, the little things started to stand out more. And that’s what makes this so great. The little things buried beneath the big thing. The massive wall of sound.

I highly recommend spending some time on the Saint Marie Records web site. While you’re there, please buy a copy of This Was Tomorrow in physical or digital format.

About dlee

North Carolina born and bred. I'm a restaurant guy who spends free time listening to music, watching hockey and playing Scrabble. I have a bachelor's degree in political science and I will most likely never put it to use. View all posts by dlee

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