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Cats of the Wild: Volume Two

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Album Review

Not counting 2000's Yes Girls album, Cats of the Wild, Vol. 2 is the first official Swirlies album in seven years. Technically, it's a mini-album, featuring newly recorded versions of songs that appeared on various singles and EPs the band released in recent years, along with new material. The relative shortness of the album and the fact that most of the songs on it have existed in one form or another for a while might disappoint fans, but it's quite possible that after such a lengthy wait, even a full-length album of entirely new songs would fail to live up to expectations. As it stands, Cats of the Wild, Vol. 2 offers more of the unpretentious but intricate dream pop that won the Swirlies fans in the first place and also shows some progression from their late-'90s work. However, this progression doesn't manifest itself in any one stylistic direction: "One Light Flashing I Love You," with its toy-like synths, mechanical rhythm, and cute fake strings, sounds more like Optiganally Yours than the Swirlies of old; the melting guitars and jazzy drums on "Le Bag" give it a slightly avant slant; "Rare Moment"'s spacious sound, burbling Moogs, and intricate bassline flirt with dub. Cats of the Wild's most fleshed-out songs, such as "Sleepytime," pick up closer to where They Spent Their Wild Youthful Days in the Glittering World of the Salons left off, combining hushed and explosive dynamics with whimsical rhythmic shifts.

Though it was previously released as a single, "Give Us Moon Rocks!" is still the standout on the album, with a stop-start melody, chunky and chiming guitars, and lovelorn lyrics that rival the songs on the classic Blonder Tongue Audio Baton in their quirky beauty. The brand-new tracks, "Indian Ocean Nosedive" and "Little Tail," are pretty but a little meandering, as if they'll appear in their final form on a future Swirlies release, but suggest an even more streamlined, stripped-down direction in their upcoming work. Adding to Cats of the Wild, Vol. 2's fragmented feel is the scattered and rotating personnel involved in creating it: The liner notes list 15 Swirlies, including founding and core members Damon Tuntunjian, Adam Pierce, Andy Bernick, Seana Carmody, and Deborah Warfield, among others (that's nearly twice as many bandmembers as there are actual songs on the album). However, the scratchy production unites most of the more divergent moments, giving the album a feeling that's more playful and experimental than polarized. Ultimately, Cats of the Wild, Vol. 2 is a little more polished than The Yes Girls, but not quite up to the level of their proper full-length albums; its in-between feeling will probably make the Swirlies' fans glad to hear new material from them, but also leave them wanting more.

Cats of the Wild: Volume Two, Swirlies
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