IAN SWEET, a trio formed in LA who now call Brooklyn their home inked a deal with Seattle’s Hardly Art Records to release their debut full length album, Shapeshifter. Lead singer Jillian Medford and bassist Damien Scalise have formal music training both at the Berkley School of Music and the New England Conservatory, respectively. It appears that on this album, they did the opposite of whatever they learned in school because they have a strange, informal approach to music that sets them apart from the massive Brooklyn music scene.
The intro ‘Pink Marker #1’ is beautifully unsettling with guitars that sound like the warped sound of a cassette. This strange track has the aura of Medford’s early demo recordings that ultimately became IAN SWEET. The album’s first single ‘Slime Time Live’ serves as a pleasant transition from the mellow intro and an excellent energetic jolt to start this album. The Michael Jordan inspired track ‘#23’ represents this album very well because it is complex and unpredictable. It starts off with a steady rhythm that falls apart and transforms into a completely new order that makes for an adventurous listen. This track represents the spontaneity and challenging song structures that’s evident throughout this album.
Moving on to ‘2soft2chew,’ one of the major gems on Shapeshifter, starts off with reverberating, noisy acoustic guitars that serve as a settling, soft bed for Medford’s squealing that are beautiful as they are awkward. Like most of this album, this song has no real traditional song structure but it’s heavily melodic. There is this contained chaos that makes you want to repeat the track to make sure you didn’t miss anything. Another shining moment on this project comes from ‘Cactus Couch,’ probably one of the brightest tracks on the album with unique changes in rhythm that are very incising. At around 2:49, the song changes into this brief, almost danceable wall of noisy guitars that slows down as the track morphs once again into this explosive fanfare of roaring drums and Jillian yelling at the top of her lungs. One of the most creative songs on Shapeshifter has to be its title track with its very uncanny intro and repetitive layered vocals from Medford that remind me of the intro to Beach House’s ‘Sparks.’ There are these peculiar, warped guitars that make this track very ambitious and an overall challenging listen.
All in all, IAN SWEET has curated something very creative that some will not get at first listen because it takes some time an energy to get use to them. Shapeshifter is a culmination of two years of hard work that resulted in something very unusual that deserves a few listens. They don’t try to fit with any trends with this project but they are not afraid to sound bright and melodic. There isn’t any true, traditional “verse-chorus-verse” structure on Shapeshifter but it’s almost like a sonic scavenger hunt to find the catchiest moments. You really need to give each song a full listen to really get a feel for it because a lot of these tracks shapeshift all over the place (excuse the pun).
Shapeshifter is IAN SWEET’s greeting to not only New York, but to anyone else who wants to get to know them. This record is how every artist should be, and that is simply themselves.