Are The Swimmers the great pop hope of 2009? It may be a little late in the year to pose such a question, but in the case of People Are Soft, it is a valid one. In the little-known rock-crit bylaws, there is a section titled “Great Pop Hopes.” Big Star inspired this rule, but they were followed by such noteworthy entrants as Cheap Trick, The Replacements, and Teenage Fanclub.
In this rarefied world, The Swimmers are a music writer’s wet dream. Even after the most cursory of listens, I have fallen victim to this syndrome. All of the caveats are necessary, because People Are Soft absolutely has me in its thrall. The Swimmers are very much of a piece with the aforementioned bands, possibly as good as the music can get.
“Shelter” opens things up, and reminds me of New Order’s “Regret,“ with Thom Yorke taking over vocal duties. A critic’s dream come true already, and we are only on track one. “A Hundred Hearts” follows, and yes, it does sound like a synth-pop variation on Springsteen’s “Hungry Heart.”
But we have only really scratched the surface of obscuro rock-crit references. “Save Me (From The Brightness)” re-imagines the incredible lost band of 1994, Ivory Library. In particular the song “Liar,” from their record Parasite. “Anything Together” comes later, and features an obvious homage to one of the great (lost) pop songs of all time, “Forever Now," from The Psychedelic Furs.
The Swimmers change things up by replacing Richard Butler’s post-punk angst with shimmering harmonies. The final track “Try To Settle In,” quotes the Band Aid tune “Do They Know It’s Christmas?”
I am sorry, but I am sold. The Swimmers are ridiculously cool. In true over-hyped Rock Critic mode, I proclaim People Are Soft to be the best record of 2009. But if you disagree, please don’t shoot me. After all, I am only the piano player.
All kidding aside though, The Swimmers’ People Are Soft is a damn good record. If you like any of the bands I previously mentioned, I suggest The Swimmers. This may be the best record I have heard this year.