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The transformed Birmingham quintet bare their hearts on new album Emerald Classics. After two records and a support slot with The 1975, Swim Deep found themselves at an impasse. Burned out, they convened in their local pub—its name the inspiration for the album title—and regrouped. They are by no means arrogant, but celebratory, about how they have put their heads down and kept Swim Deep going—albeit with new members and a completely fresh sound. Swim Deep cover a lot of ground sonically. Choirs, ’70s synths, and ’00s beats are littered throughout this poignant but playful album.
Their triumphant return is a hopeful one. The dreamy guitars are left by the wayside and replaced by airy synths. ‘0121 Desire’ comes straight from the disco dance floor whilst the reflective ‘Bruised’ is atmospheric and emotional. They haven’t forgotten their surf pop roots in ‘Happy As Larrie’. Beginning as a gentle space-age ballad, echoing guitars trickle in and make for a nice call back, reminiscing on the early days of Swim Deep.
They discuss their hardships on tracks such as ‘To Feel Good’ and ‘Sail Away, Say Goodbye’. Laying out your soul on an anticipated comeback album can leave a bitter taste but Swim Deep toe the line perfectly. They’re not reaching for relatability but exposing themselves to the listener. ‘Top of the Pops’ is bursting with sentimental wishes and nostalgia. Gorgeous, positive messages appear on nearly every track on the album, following the group’s emotional development.
Whilst Swim Deep’s phoenix from the ashes moment has welcomed a new era, there are some moments of sonic confusion where they seem out of their depth. ‘Drag Queens in Soho’ misses the mark. The guitars seem to grate rather than flow. The misplaced church bell feels awkward and adds to the cheesiness of the track. ‘Father I Pray’ plays like a rejected church hymn for the youth. The distorted, high-pitched vocals followed by a choir fight against each other.
Swim Deep have certainly pushed the boat out with this new record. Moving completely away from their old sound, this new era brings bouncing upbeat pop, as well as poignant lyricism. Whilst it doesn’t earn the title of a true renaissance, Emerald Classics is a clever mix of ’70s disco and ’00s synth pop, setting Swim Deep apart from their indie contemporaries.