Full marks to DigSin for versatility. The Nashville label has picked two acts to fly the flag for it so different that no-one could ever pigeonhole the imprint.
Opening act Lauren Shera does at least hail from country music’s global capital, but that’s where the stereotyping ends. Softly spoken but highly articulate, she’s closer to the storytelling folk of Michelle Shocked or Suzanne Vega, with a hint of the ringing indie jangle of Johnny Marr or her sometime collaborator/mentor Kristen Hersh. Especially as in the live arena a little of the immaculate sonic polish of her Gold and Rust album is replaced by a rawer, stripped down vulnerability.
Headlining act Like Swimming, on the other hand, are a Swedish trio. They’re certainly no blushing violets, appearing on stage in flowing robes, asymetrical haircuts and black hats, arms raised in unison as if lost in the secret rituals of a religious cult.
And with songs like this, don’t be surprised if they recruit a whole lot more converts to their cause. On the surface they’re ultra light and bubbly, with more hooks than velcro. Their set up of keyboards, guitar and drums has a decidedly un-rockist 80s feel, brimming with the perky energy of a toddler on a sugar high.
But, in a similar manner to the way Vampire Weekend wrap up their complex philosophical and political musings in irresistible musical catchiness, there are deeper currents running underneath. Current single ‘A Room of Her Own’ sees twin singers Ida Hedene and Claes Carlström swapping choruses so joyfully you’d never guess they’re dissecting a crucial feminist essay by Virginia Woolf. ‘Among A Thousand Desperate Minds’, meanwhile, imagines how the international money markets would behave if they were a real person. By threatening “If you ever let me down / Then I will mess up,” they conclude, probably accurately.
Their biggest success to date, last year’s single ‘Go Buffalo‘, is a prime example. You can’t help but get swept along by its Human League-like wispy synth line and beaming, optimistic sounding verse. Then the penny drops and you suddenly realise the whole thing is about the more brutal practises of the meat trade, Ida declaring “We are all going to die in the summer.”
Moments like this are a rare treat in the world of music, a world where style so often rules over content. Like Swimming have got tons of both attributes, and their candy coated food for thought deserves to go a long way. Dive in.
Like Swimming’s ‘Structures’ album and Lauren Shera’s LP ‘Gold and Rust’ are both out this week on DigSin. Photo courtesy of Martha Love.