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Review: The Indie-Pop Ecstasy of Ian Sweet’s ‘Crush Crusher’

Jilian Medford turns anxiety into great songs that follow their own dreamy logic

Ian Sweet, 2018

Ian Sweet, 2018

Kelsey Hart

The first thing that strikes you about Ian Sweet’s bright, bracing indie-pop is the tension between Jilian Medford’s diminutive voice and the huge, candied tumult she’s creating and hurling her voice into, and against. It gives off the feeling of someone being transported, or falling into or maybe even being drowned by forces they can’t hope to control, or make sense of. Her lyrics fit that feeling: “I forgot myself in you,” she sings on “Hiding,” which opens the band’s second LP, fending off the feeling of losing her own identity. Later, she tells someone, “you’ll go,” against swirling distortion, “and I’ll get swallowed by someone else’s spit.” What emerges is an old story: anxiety is everywhere, life is a mess, but there’s always healing waves of static and hiss to fall into and become brand new.

The songs on Crush Crusher can evoke great things like early Nineties shoegaze and girly-voice/big-guitar bands like Charli Bliss. But they move at a weird, exciting logic all their own, gliding and taking off and turning back on themselves, eliding easy catharsis even when they feel explosive. “Falling Fruit” shifts from tense and taut to tidally punishing; the title track is nearly a dance track, with its distorted digital beat and lightly chanted vocals; “Borrowed Body” opens wth glammy pounding, before lifting off into something almost like a textured jam, suggesting a cuddle-core Mahavishnu Orchestra.

The dream-like push-pull of this stuff, and Medford’s ethereal, self-finding vocals can recall Kate Bush. “Ugly/Bored” comes on like a slow fever — or, as it turns out, a weird memory, with Medford wondering, “I forgot did I ever ask what you thought about the day we fucked in the parking lot?” Elsewhere, her sensual world seems easier to navigate: “I saw two dogs kissing the other day,” she sings on “Your Arms Are Water,” over prettily melting guitars, “now I know what love is, it’s getting a tongue in your face.” Hard as life can be, sometimes, it’s the simple things that you get you through.

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