SWISH is undoubtedly one of the strangest albums to come out this year.
I’m not talking about the Kanye release that became The Life of Pablo, but instead, Joywave’s album that became available to stream yesterday, March 11th. A little-promoted follow up to the underground talent’s 2015 How Do You Feel Now?, it’s one of the most unique albums of the year – ironic, because it contains only two unique songs. The album begins with “Destruction,” the most popular single off of Joywave’s first album, and continues with eight more tracks of “Destruction,” each with a slightly different sampled intro and a different title. The title of each track comes together to form the phrase “Why be credible when you can be incredible?”, which is the name of the column lead singer Daniel Armbruster writes for The Huffington Post, detailing the work that went into each song off of their debut album.
Yes, it’s the same orange as TLOP, but Joywave has been using it in promo materials for several years – for example, in this promotional video for their album which came out a full six weeks before Kanye unveiled his album artwork. Although they clearly lifted the name from Kanye’s cast-off album title, the moniker is fabulously self-aware – if Kanye mimicked their aesthetic (which he seems to have done before), they just took it one step further.
Pulling humor into seriously great music is nothing new for the group. In Armbruster’s November column for The Huffington Post, about “Destruction,” he explains the humorous elements of the song, and his subtle parody of basically every hit indie-pop song of the past five years. “The cheesy whistles. The stomps and claps. The unenthusiastic “our producer made us yell ‘hey’ into a microphone”. They’re all in there,” Armbruster writes, saying that “at points, the song sounds like it’s downright making fun of the audience, and in a lot of ways, it is.” He goes on to clarify that the group is definitely grateful for the exposure that radio play as an alternative rock band has given them, but that in their minds, alternative rock isn’t a label that fits them. According to Joywave, “genres and formats are irrelevant in 2015” – so of course, their most popular single is an amalgamation of rock cliches, and their most interesting album plays with format in a medium-transcending way. This is what makes Joywave such an incredible band – their complete willingness to experiment, to be self-deprecatingly humorous while simultaneously being completely confident and self-assured, even this early in their career.
SWISH isn’t just nine variations of “Destruction,” however. The final track/”B-side” is the band’s newest single, “Life in a Bubble I Blew.”
It’s a solid track, a light follow-up to twenty-seven minutes of “Destruction”. Although part of me wishes this had been a serious release, because I’m in desperate need of some new Joywave, this track should be enough to tide us over until they’re ready to share their next full album. Overall, SWISH works on several levels, proving the band’s willingness to experiment, to innovate, and to bring much-needed humor into the rock genre without sacrificing some of the catchiest tracks of the decade.
If you want to see Joywave live, you’re in luck – they’re opening for Metric tomorrow, March 13th, at The Fillmore in Silver Spring, and you can get your (almost-sold-out) ticket here.