Black Swan Runners – An Aside

January 01, 1970



Black Swan
Runners make a spiky, bristly form of pop, one based primarily on scrubby,
eighth-note strumming, hard beats and gleaming accents of synth and keyboard.
Kevin Castillo, the band’s leader, sings in the same gruff, worn-through timbre
as Britt Daniels of Spoon, a skeptical
undercurrent against the band’s relentlessly upbeat tunefulness. These are
catchy songs, no question, and they don’t veer away from conventional sentiment
so much as they puncture it with sharp rhythms and giddy dissonances.


“Ff Ff
Fire” is arguably the best cut, its soft murmurous verse winding in a low-key
way through bubbling bass notes. Then, clang, clang, clang, a trio of power
chords intimate that something big is coming. And come it does in the buoyant
nonsense of the payoff chorus, sweeping you up like a warm current to who knows
where. Power shifts from keyboard to guitar on these tracks, with a pixilated
arpeggio of synthesizer defining “Sooner or Later,” and a saw-toothed assault of
six-string shaping “Big Mistake.” “West of the Ten” gives over to Cure-like
castles in the air, its slow beat hazed by ghostly washes of synthetic tone.
Castillo saunters in casually over all kinds of sounds, tossing his verses
sideways as if he didn’t care, but he does.


all-male, tough but tender vibe palls after a while, and after the midway,
tracks start sounding the same. Just when you’re ready to give up (and maybe go
back to “Ff Ff Fire” for one more play), the final track “Alibi” eases into view.
An exception in all ways, in its
soft chiming reticence, in its REM-ish jangle in the unnamed female singer
whose voice twines so prettily with Castillos, this song is the second clear
highlight of an intriguing album.  Black
Swan Runners does the one thing – the jittery-sweet, loud-soft indie pop –
quite well, and maybe it can do some others. 




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