REVIEW: Arms And Sleepers – ‘Swim Team’

arms and sleepers

Artist: Arms And Sleepers
Album: Swim Team
Genre: Chillwave, Trip-Hop

Adding to a hefty catalog of LPs, EPs, and split releases riddled with lush tones, intricate instrumentals, ethereal auras, smooth beats and soothing vocal samples, Boston’s Arms and Sleepers are back, post-hiatus, with Swim Team, their fifth full-length studio effort since forming in 2006.

Opening with a slow-builder in “Unbound,” Swim Team immediately compels you to nod your head to one of its many ’90s-inspired beats as you float along with A&S’ evolved sound before meeting a very new one in the title track, which brings to mind the playful and summery childlike exuberance of acts such as Neon Indian, Discovery, and Cults. The rest of the album features moments of hard-hitting, down-tempo drone (“Tiger Tempo”), twinkling R&B that brings Nelly & Kelly to mind (“Forever Only”), pure relaxation to completely lose yourself within (“Better Living Thru Chemistry”), and amped-up, synth-driven, ’80s sunglasses-wearing awesomeness (“Tetro”).

One of my favorite aspects of Swim Team, however, are the subtle musical nuances that serve as callbacks to the earlier works of the duo from their Black Paris 86 and Matador days (e.g. “Hummingbird,” “Ghost Loop,” “Hurry Slowly”). There are specific notes and tones that I pick up on that sound like they’ve been plucked straight from some of my favorite A&S tracks; not in a lazy, recycled kind of way, but more in a ‘not forgetting the roots of our brand’ kind of way. That’s an aspect that I love and respect when it comes to any ever-evolving act, no matter the genre.

Overall, there’s something more simple, safe and reserved about Swim Team; something ostensibly less complicated. That might sound like a negative remark, but I promise you that it’s not. While I do find myself missing some of the more natural-sounding instrumentation and intricacies of the duo’s back catalog, this newest effort is as welcome as any in my book. Swim Team is wholly cohesive and plays like the instrumental accompaniment to a charting hip-hop album, and that might not sound very A&S but they’ve already proved themselves several times over in numerous other areas of ambient and experimental electronic music. The fact that I’ve listened to this album at least 20 times in the past month proves two things to me: 1) It has tremendous replay value, and 2) I wish it was twice as long.

Swim Team is easily one of my favorite albums of the year and the only way it could get any better is if A&S pulled a reverse Ratatat and got some of hip-hop’s finest to record complementing bars over each of the tracks, then released the results as an alternate version called Swim Team 2: Freestyle.

SCORE: 9.5/10
Review written by Brian Lion — (Follow him on Twitter)

Brian Leak

Editor-In-Chief. King of forgetting drinks in the freezer. Pop culture pack rat. X-Phile. LOST apologist.
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