CD Review of The Slow Transmission by Swivel Chairs
Recommended if you like
Coco B’s, Dinosaur Jr., Wilco
Transit of Venus
Swivel Chairs:
The Slow Transmission

Reviewed by Jason Thompson


et’s just cut to the chase here: Swivel Chairs’ The Slow Transmission is the sleeper masterpiece of 2007. The duo (Jeremy Grites and Jason Brown) have created one of those albums that seems perfect for the fall and winter months, with delicate instrumentation and just enough hooks tossed into the mix to make it stand out from the usual pack of quieter albums. I’ll even go so far as to say I wish I had heard this album sooner, because it definitely would have wound up on my best of 2007 list; please append this to that, and certainly keep it in mind if you’re looking for something exquisitely wonderful to listen to.

The Swivel Chairs have been around since 1992 and according to their official site, they’ve released 10 albums. On this release, Jeremy and Jason take turns singing lead, each taking the reins on whichever songs they happened to write. Grites’ “Breaking Up” is one of the best pop songs of the year, and his exclamation of “Counting all the greys in my summer beard / Counting all the days until you are here” in “All at Once” takes the mundane and turns it into something fresh and new. On the other hand, Brown’s “Easy Now” sounds like one of the best songs Jeff Tweedy never wrote, and “Little Girl” sounds like a late summer/Doors circa Waiting for the Sun meditative sort of circular groove that effortlessly floats three feet above the ground.

The nice thing about Swivel Chairs tunes is they don’t wear out their welcome. Many of the tracks here clock in at under or just a little over three minutes, and those that don’t follow the formula work just as well. But for the most part, these are concise, instantly likable songs that anyone with an appreciation for just plain good songwriting should be able to enjoy right off the bat. Especially a song like “Sun Goes Down,” with its joyous harmonies, acoustic guitars, and a melody offering more than the same old-same old coffee house vibe than can often plague other groups trying to attain similar sounds.

You have a song like “Afterthought,” which bounces around in a semi-rocked-up fashion, yet stays reined in just enough to keep the tension flowing. This is the sort of thing that would sound great on a “modern rock” or college station. Then you also have the quiet, contemplative “Calloused Hands”: peaceful and reassuring, almost rustic in its execution. Funny how a “sad” song like this can indeed make one feel at ease, but then, that’s the beauty and magic of the best music.

The point is, The Slow Transmission is a peach of an album, and with songs like “Let’s Get Down To It” being stellar examples of the Swivel Chairs’ work, it’s one of those discs that everyone should have, regardless of what kind of music they enjoy the most. It’s one of those once-a-year sort of albums that usually flies under the radar because everyone’s involved with hearing the more popular stuff crowding the airwaves. But do give Swivel Chairs a listen and a purchase if at all possible. It might not clobber you over the head immediately, but this is truly one of those albums that gets better and better with each listen. Some of the best stuff in life is the kind that you have to explore fully to unearth its riches. The Slow Transmission is that type of stuff - nearly flawless and eminently enjoyable.

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