09.05.00 - www.pitchforkmedia.com Swallowed by the Sun [Monitor] Rating: 7.4 - by Ryan Kearney

Driving alone in a car is the perfect environment in which to become acquainted with an album. The hum of traffic notwithstanding, the music is one´s sole auditory concern. Accompanying passing images of buildings, cars, and people, any given record instantaneously becomes the sound track to the present. This, I believe, is why music sounds better while driving than, say, while doing the dishes or getting a divorce.

I closed the door, sealed the windows, turned the ignition, and pulled out of a cobblestone court in Boston. With the very first echoed guitar note, I knew I was in for a pleasant listen. I also knew I´d heard that sound before, and indeed, I had. For my drive into the city the previous night, I´d chosen Modest Mouse´s The Moon and Antarctica. The connection: Brian Deck produced both of these albums. But with its slow pace, lack of obvious structure, and lingering harmonized vocals,Swallowed by the Sun´s opening track, "Moon," is more reminiscent of Spiritualized than Modest Mouse.

Sweeder is only three people- former Squash Blossom members Jeff Carleton and Chiyoko Yoshida, and bassist/violinist/violist Julie Liu (who has worked with Rex, Songs: Ohia, June of 44, and Tortoise, among others)- but they create an incredibly lush sound. Circling "The Big Dig" and crossing the Tobin Bridge, I was consumed by visual and auditory grandiosity.

"Thread and Wire" features an aggressive beat which assisted me in weaving through the disastrous rotaries and detours that plague Massachusetts´ north shore. And the comforting dual vocals of Carleton and Yoshida kept me calm during the delays. Although no longer a couple, they bear a familial semblance to Yo La Tengo´s Ira Kaplan and Georgia Hubley, rather than the tension of Quasi´s Sam Coomes and Janet Weiss. Yoshida´s vocals are always in the forefront,however, and seemingly, for good reason: the song peaks with a beautiful burst of quavering female vocals.

"Filters" coincided with my mid-drive boredom. Not nearly as textured as the first two tracks, the track has little to offer. I´d opened the windows by this point, and,admittedly, I closed them during this song. I didn´t want to risk passers-by mistaking its chorus for the Indigo Girls. (Incidentally, it pains me to make this comparison.Sweeder are, without question, infinitely more talented the aged folk duo. Just noton this song.)

"All I Can Be" serves as an upbeat post-punk number a la Sleater-Kinney, and proved perfect for my shift in mood: I was glad the last song had ended. While it doesn´t necessarily mesh with the rest of Swallowed by the Sun, the track is refreshingly energetic. "Wake" combines the depth of the early tracks with the force of "All I Can Be." Accompanied by cascading drums and a guitar that tears into the song like a saw, Yoshida sings, "Now I´m flying backwards," and daresyou not to sing along.

After a forgettable number including an excellent PJ Harvey imitation, Swallowed by the Sun ends with the exceptional 7+ minute-long closer, "Bells Lament." Here,neither Carleton´s nor Yoshida´s vocals are in the forefront. Instead, the two share the mic equally, singing in different pitches, resulting in a furious, wrenching chorus. Halfway into the song, Liu is finally allowed to fully showcase her strings kills, which have been unforgivably restrained until this moment.

Suddenly, every light turned green for me and cars moved out of my way as if I were driving a police cruiser. Why couldn´t it have been this way the whole time?Why now, when I was almost home and the album played its final notes? Just as everything neared perfection, it was over.

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contact sweeder by mail: Sweeder . 1658 N. Milwaukee Ave . PMB 151 . Chicago . IL . 60647