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Album Review

On Swimming, the French Kicks trade the shiny electronics of Two Thousand for guitars and live percussion, but even though this is the most organic the band has sounded since One Time Bells, the intricate arrangements and production that were Two Thousand's focal points remain. Swimming is, well, swimming in lavish sounds, with layers and layers of blissful harmonies and melodies, chiming guitars, and drumming that is subtle but still manages to stand out from its surroundings. Unfortunately, as on Two Thousand, these beautiful, inviting sonics overwhelm the songs they're attached to. Too often, it's easier to notice the decorations — like "Carried Away"'s strummy guitars and flute-like keyboards, or the big drum buildup that opens "The Way You Arrive" — than what they're decorating. Much of Swimming blurs into an attractive wash that sounds appealing in the moment, but leaves very little lasting impression; tracks like "Atlanta," "New Man" and "Said So What" end up being just too subtle for their own good. However, there are a few more memorable songs here than there were on Two Thousand. "Abandon" and "Love in the Ruins" bring back a little of the band's early, post-punk worshipping sharpness, giving some edge and shape to Swimming's softness; "With the Fishes"' shimmying beat and shimmering guitars feel like a dream pop twist on '50s rock, and "All Our Weekends," a bittersweet look at a samey relationship, actually uses the album's repetitive sounds to its advantage. However, by the time "This Could Go Wrong" ends Swimming even more gently than it started, it feels like you've remembered these pretty songs instead of actually hearing them. It's almost impossible to dislike Swimming's pastel beauty, but it's nearly as difficult to work up much enthusiasm about it.


Formed: 1998 in New York City

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '00s

A blend of post-punk aggression and mod melodies and harmonies, French Kicks originally featured guitarists/vocalists Matt Stinchcomb and Josh Wise, bassist Jamie Krents, and drummer/vocalist Nick Stumpf. Washington, D.C. natives Krents, Stumpf, and Stinchcomb began playing together in their early teens, inspired by their hometown's renowned hardcore scene; upon moving to Brooklyn after college, the trio met Wise and became a quartet. Officially christened French Kicks in 1998, the group released...
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Swimming, French Kicks
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