In this confusing, continuously shifting world that is the extended alternative music scene, it’s not unusual for emerging acts to rigidly cling to a subculture and it’s formulaic conventions for affirmation. With this in consideration, it’s easy to see how Minnesota’s Tiny Moving Parts have garnered such a wide spread reputation. Throughout their short, yet illustrious career they’ve managed to bridge a gap between the conflicting emo and math-rock genres and scenes, taking inspirations from both but never being restricted in the process. The result of such creativity is a highly intricate and DIY sound that’s both unique, familiar and most crucially, thoroughly engaging.
Whilst 2016’s Celebrate saw the band nail their distinctive sound, many wondered how the group would progress. Whilst their tone was fully established, many considered it to be the result of a zen like balance between two isolated genres, with a slight lean to one side spelling disaster. Thankfully, the trio have maintained such a focus on this record. Swell is the next logical step for this act. Not only does it amplify the audible and ideological tones presented within their previous work, it makes such themes impossible to ignore in a way most beautiful.
It’s initially evident that no conscious effort has gone into advancing their homegrown and idiosyncratic sound. However, it’s transparent that further advancements are not necessary and would only potentially spoil their craft. Swell is the definite accumulation of many years’ worth of creativity and experimentation. In contrast, further polish and consideration has been added in order to finely tune their aesthetic to maximum potential. Their previous efforts have always reverbed a sense of anxious frustration and these themes have only been amplified through a sense of free flowing sonic fluidity.
The intricate riffs and complexity present further bolsters the atmosphere the group have become renowned for and in relation, such outstanding twinkly moments of serpentine have become fully embedded within the groups song writing. In essence, their established ‘math-rock meets emo’ sound has become sublimely streamlined to the point where these stereotypically contrasting genres intertwine seamlessly. Whilst many may say the group accomplished this within their most previous effort, such integration of contrasting themes and tones appear effortless and almost simplistically easy within this release.
One of the most fantastic aspects of this record is how the band document human nature and emotion in a contemporary fashion. Whilst the group have been known to wear their heart on their sleeves and to document such narrative themes linearly, Swell see’s the gang explore emotion though creative and vibrant storytelling. With its pop oriented harmonies, ‘Smooth It Out’ tells the tale of a weathered stray cat meeting a fellow terrified cat who has been freshly abandoned and ‘Whale Watching’ tells the story of a nervous fish who has been thoughtlessly swallowed by a whale. Yeah, it all sounds like plots from Pixar films but the sheer level of human emotion flowing though these tracks is undeniable and tangible enough to be moulded to the listeners own personal experiences. Of course, all of these stories are just illustrative metaphors for the human condition, but the perfect handling of such creative lyrical work resonates the freshly artistic craft of this act.
As within all of their previous releases, the vocal talents of Dylan Mattheisen are one of the most electric and animated elements of their work. Through his combination of strained harsh vocals and emotive cleans, Dylan further enlivens the magic present and only further compliments the complexity and outright innovation of this band. The addition of emotive female backing vocals only adds volumes to the sensitivity present and proves to be a welcome contrast to the electric anxiety and sonic frustration featured.
To conclude, whilst Swell doesn’t see the group further evolve or transform their previously metamorphosing sound, it’s a direct confirmation that the group have found their audible home. Quirky, emotive and sonically complex, whilst the album may be bristling with bittersweet emotions and electric anxiety, it’s the most comfortable the group have felt yet.