September 9, 2016

LP: IAN SWEET - Shapeshifter

IAN SWEET's Shapeshifter tackles both nineties nostalgia and mental illness.

IAN SWEET’s Shapeshifter, out September 9th off of Hardly Art, chronicles vocalist Jilian Medford’s experience with depression and anxiety. While I was smothered in a perpetual glaze of sweat and fighting off humidity-induced hallucinations at the end of the summer, I often turned to the album as a solace from my own feelings of loneliness and confusion. Through references to pop-culture relics like Nickelodeon’s "Slime Time Live", Shapeshifter evokes a certain melancholy-infused nostalgia. Be it through mutual feelings of anxiety or shared childhood TV shows, the album shows us that we are not alone.

On "#23," the band's second single, Medford’s glittering high-pitched bravado pairs perfectly with the reverb-heavy guitar. She sings, “Lately I’ve been feelin’ kind of lonely / Turn on that History Channel VHS about the mummies / It keeps me company.” We've all been there – the times when the comforting monotony of TV re-runs feels addictive, unpleasant, and unrelenting. These feelings, like the aforementioned collective nostalgia for nineties child-centric programming, are sacred in their shared nature. On "All Skaters Go to Heaven," with its looping guitar riff and a sparse drum pattern, Medford sings about lost relationships, wailing: “You wanna die / By your own side / You tell me to keep my hands by my side / Sit on them / ‘Til you can use yours again.” The guitar in its repetition, like the subject matter, is eerily familiar. Medford’s vocals on "Pink Marker 2" are almost hypnotic, and then the song ends abruptly. Medford sings, “But I threw that plastic chair in the water / and I dove after it / Pushed all my weight down on it / And all it did was resist.” Despite the stigma, we shouldn’t resist our feelings and suppress our sadness. Shapeshifter shows us that we are not alone in our self-enclosing thoughts and solitary TV marathons. Kick flips and '90s television aside, it reveals to us that everyone gets dark sometimes, and that's perfectly okay.


Listen to IAN SWEET on bandcamp.

Emma May is a sophomore at Barnard College studying Women's, Gender and Sexuality Studies. She likes pop punk, comics, and Haribo.