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SWiiMS – Into the Blue Night (Mint 400)

11 November 2023

Like so many bands, SWiiMS saw the 2020-21 Covid years as a time of tumult. The Canadian three-piece began as Covid became a global pandemic. Guitarist Colin Thompson says that “after a few failed attempts to launch the project, [he] serendipitously crossed paths with singer/guitarist Mai Diaz Langou. The addition of bassist Cian O’Ruanaidh completed the lineup, injecting the songs with melodic hooks and driving energy.”

The result of their union was the strong debut EP, ”Through Waves”, released in 2020 on Mint 400 Records. Fusing Brit rock, new wave, dream pop, and shoegaze, the spunky, twangy six-track EP is 22 minutes of melodic and at times edgy tunes that pack a lot of power.

Flash forward to October of this year, when fans of the band were sated with the superb first single, “All I Die For”, to be taken from the first album. Kicking off with a drum rhythm taken from The Jesus & Mary Chain’s playbook, the song expands into so much more, with swirling guitars and keyboards layered alongside Mai’s characteristically breathy and dreamy vocals.

And now, without further ado, we finally get to hear the new album, ”Into The Blue Night”, just released on November 10th again on Mint 400 Records. Tracks have this surging momentum, rushing like all epic indie rock should. Production is crisp and clear. Playing to their strengths, faster tempos dominate the record.

Mai sheds light on the album’s theme, describing it as “a reflection on the beginning stages of a relationship”, further noting “it’s about how you try to make yourself more intriguing or impressive than you are in order to keep that person interested.”

Musically, Colin’s guitar work owes much to Johnny Marr and Neil Halstead. At times he’s also channeling Peter Buck as if he’d played on 4AD. Jangly and often creative guitar parts are layered on each other, with acoustics, reverby arpeggiated notes, and heavier lower chords all adding wonderful texture and bite to the songs. “Staring at the Sun” epitomizes these themes and sounds, and the song is in part so strong because it shifts gears with tempo, arrangement, and mood.

The “Blue Night” record really reminds me of the latest from Bleach Lab (”Lost In A Rush Of Emptiness“) and their recently departed guitarist, Frank Wates. But older fans like me will hear lovely flashes of 80s-era post-punk guitarists like Tristan Garel-Funk (Sad Lovers & Giants, Snake Corps), or more obscure players like Ron Poitras (Blue Hollow, Glu-ons).

Across 12 tracks clocking in at just under 42 minutes, the “Blue Night” formula follows a somewhat narrow structure of 3’ 30” tunes, even as SWiiMS packs them full of much to adore. In future releases, I’d love to hear a wider range of vocals, longer and shorter song arrangements, and even instrumentation. That said, passages in tracks like “All I Die For”, “Bliss” and “A Million Stars” (with nice tempo shifts, breaks, and subsequent builds), and especially “Closer” (with its standout twangy, country/western/surf guitar solo) illustrate that the band is fully capable of building broad dynamics.

SWiiMS · Into The Blue Night