Album Review: Choir Boy – Gathering Swans

Friday, May 15, 2020

It’s been a couple of years between albums, but it’s been worth the wait for fans of Salt Lake City band Choir Boy. Their sophomore release, Gathering Swans, is home to an eclectic blend of dream-pop, goth-pop, new wave, 80s synth-pop, and sounds inspired by the New Romantic period. Despite these nostalgic influences, what Choir Boy creates still sounds unique and authentic — in fact, they’re probably doing it better than many bands from the 80s.

There’s a sense of yearning that remains present during the album’s duration — it’s an arc that glues the songs together, resulting in a tracklist that’s cohesive and smooth. The album opens up with ‘It’s Over’, which is ironic given it’s the song that kicks things off. The slow-burning number is graceful and gentle. From the opener, you can get a good sense of what to expect from the tracks that follow — including passionate words, murmurs of heartache, stunning melodies and Klopp’s unique vocal delivery.

Gathering Swans is an impressive release where the album is a highlight in itself, but there are particular moments that stand out. The first being their previous single ‘Toxic Eye’. Led by a trumpet, the anthemic song is impossible to fault. Klopp’s remarkable vocals fuse with the enchanting synths with ease, and in a way, they appear as one. The chorus is also incredibly catchy, and all it takes is one listen for it to be etched in your mind for hours. ‘Complainer’ is a rhythmic and frantic cut, with Klopp’s ethereal vocals having a piercing effect on the listener. ‘Nites Like This’, which follows, is another dazzling highlight. The words, “Falls the night / and deeply sighs our woven melody / nites like this / stars don’t bother to shine / hold me tight / as you and I fade to a memory,” are especially moving. ‘Shatter’, appearing later in the album, is an arresting and all-consuming offering.

The memorable ‘Sweet Candy’ is a charming track that features surf-rock-inspired sounds, but with gothic undertones. It’s a warm and vibrant number, whilst simultaneously remaining melancholic throughout. ‘Sweet Candy’ also provides for one of the more distinct lyrical moments on Gathering Swans, with the words reflecting on a narrative that they created based on a character named ‘Andy’.

The album ends with ‘Happy To Be Bad’ and ‘Gathering Swans’. The first of the tracks doesn’t feel as essential to the record — with it providing the album’s one and only lacking moments. The same can’t be said for the album’s title track, also the grand finale. The closer is elegant and heartbreaking, ensuring that the very near perfect release ends in the right way.

Whereas many bands might fall into the trap of sounding like a cheap knockoff of an 80s band, the same can’t be said for Choir Boy. The band from Salt Lake City are one of the most unique and intriguing bands of our time and their sophomore release reaffirms this.

Written by Amy Smolcic (@amysmolcic)

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