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Swamp Eyes - Something's In The Hall

Swamp Eyes, otherwise known as Sam Kuban, is a "solo experimental folk project.” I think Kuban sells himself short there. It's definitely worth focusing on the word experimental before delving into this album, because Kuban certainly hasn't produced a run-of-the-mill folk record here. It's clear that he draws influences from alt-rock, indie music, and even, at times, punk music. On the opening track, for instance, a beautiful folky vocal harmony sits at the back of the song, but manic drums and screeching vocals also enter the mix at the climax of the track. It's a beautiful song with stunningly soft singing, but there's a rawness to it -- an energy that is present in the folk genre, of course, but there's definitely an immediateness to the drumming and vocals that Kuban delivers which gives it more of a rock/punk flair. It's a really intriguing combination of genres, and I'm surprised that it works so well.

"Wait For The Lights" has a sorrowful melody, beautiful vocals and more insane drumming. Kuban really pours his heart into this track. Given the subject nature of the lyrics -- inspired by Kuban's difficult journey dealing with his child's diabetes diagnosis -- it makes sense that every note sung would feel so raw and real. I love the structure of the track too. There are so many different sections to the track -- wild, punk-fuelled passages, but also meek, mild, hauntingly beautiful folk passages. It's a fluctuating rollercoaster journey, which I'm sure gives us an insight into Kuban's state of mind. There's something uncomfortably powerful about his music on this record. Given that it comes from such an unimaginably painful place, this makes perfect sense. But some songs, such as "Dig A Hole,” are much calmer and settled -- accepting, perhaps. There's something wonderful about the simplistic piano and gorgeous singing. But that visceral, loud, verging-on-metal screech and guitar strumming towards the end of the track was certainly a reminder that even in the calmest and most soothing moments of this album, there's still a burgeoning agony and rage in this release. Kuban is a man who's composed symphonies from his sorrow.

I also like a lot of the shorter cuts on this album. "The Farm Up North" is a pleasant little acoustic interlude with tender, spectacular vocal melodies -- and, of course, occasional second-long bursts of punky anger. “Cheers," the closer, is a wonderful acoustic finger-picked track with gentle, atmospheric background sounds and more gorgeously soothing vocals. It's a brief flicker on the album, but then the entire record is a short but sweet collection of tunes. It's fantastic that Kuban succeeds in fitting so much passion and pain into such a short runtime.

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