A while back i was listening to the random promo tracks i have on my phone in shuffle mode, and a song grabbed my attention. At first listen, i thought it was Yuki Chikudate singing, but then i thought, "Wait, Asobi Seksu don't have a new song out, do they?"
Indeed, they do not, and the song in question is called Knots and is by Scottish band Olympic Swimmers. I grabbed the full promo of No Flags Will Fly the band's self-released debut, and copied it up to my phone.
The vocalist is named Susie Smillie, and her voice is the real attraction in this band. It is light and high-pitched, yet she can really push it when she wants to (which she doesn't do often enough on this record). Plus, she has that odd Scottish richness to her pronunciation, so the words sound just a little off, but in a good way. I bet that if i were to meet Ms. Smillie face to face, we would be hard-pressed to understand each other through our accents -- Midwestern/Southern vs. Scottish does not have a lot of overlap.
After that interesting voice, the next thing to note is the dueling guitarwork of Simon Liddell and Jamie Savage. These two play guitars through a ton of effects, making a deep chiming, blurry sound, which is a nice shoegaze throwback.
So, a band with shoegazery guitars and a nice female voice? That is right in my sweet spot.
And Olympic Swimmers do a decent job of it. Such as on single Knots (watch the video here), where Smillie spits out her words as the guitars whirl and drummer Johnny Scott drives the tune along. This is really catchy and a great shoegazery pop tune.
I also really like Game of the Century, which is one of the few times here that Smillie seems to really push herself by belting it out on the choruses. The guitars here cascade in layers, while the drumming sounds a little flat. The song has an odd swaying feel to it, and at the same time reminds me of the last Mira record.
And then there is Fallen Trees, which might be my favorite song here. Keyboards seem to drive the song, tapping out a steady melody as Graeme Smillie's bass rumbles deeply. Ms. Smillie sings a little forcefully on the choruses when the guitars get dense.
A lot of the rest of the songs are a little slower. In fact, the band seems to like doing ballads, where Smillie can wail lightly alongside music that chimes quietly. It is pretty enough, but i want to see the band rock out, with dense layers of guitar and Smillie actually wailing, using that voice of hers...
But this is their debut record, and they are a young band. Perhaps in time their music will get denser. As it is, No Flags Will Fly is more folkish than shoegazey on the whole, but still an interesting debut.