A grainy photo of a smiling man lying on grass with his eyes closed.

winded: Schwartz Goes to Heaven Album Review

By Hannah Wisterman
Music Journalist

Artist: winded
Album: Schwartz Goes to Heaven
Release Date: June 22, 2018
Label: Community Records
Website: https://winded.bandcamp.com/

Bedroom pop can be twee, plain-borderline-boring and uninspired. It can also be intimate, carefully crafted and some of the most emotionally genuine stuff you’ll ever hear. Schwartz Goes to Heaven falls into the latter camp. The dream pop mastermind behind winded, Thrin Vianale, has presented a delicate LP that speaks universally to our insecurity, loneliness and quiet hope.

The album is an ultra-light 20 minutes long, with seven tracks all under four minutes each. It’s the perfect approach for an album with such a bittersweet tone. Vianale doesn’t burden the listener by building a catalog of depressive seven-minute tracks whose length could only come from ambience or repetition. Instead, she opts for a lighter touch, practically butterfly kisses of emotion, that linger just long enough to do what they need and then move on. It’s not an album that’s going to set off your mood for the whole day.

At the same time, though, Vianale’s wispy vocals, simple rhythms and perfectly honest lyrics (Vianale has said she prefers “statements of experience” over abstraction) prick at your heart in a memorable way.

After I heard “Swallowing Hair” for the first time, the line “I live like a coffee stain that you can’t bear to clean” stuck in my head for hours. Sometimes bedroom and dream pop can talk about experiences that are either too niche or too far from “normal” life to be relatable, but Vianale keeps it perfectly aligned with the listener, whether she means to or not.

One of the best quick slices from the album, “I Know It’s Thin,” is a perfect look at how Vianale can get right into your heart with minimal effort. It’s, as the band has been described before, sparse and uncomplicated in melody, but when the track opens with “You can call me, screaming in my face, I will take it and put it away,” the exhaustion and silent suffering of an abuse victim slams home. “I know that it’s thin, walls they’re thin, mind gets thin,” Vianale sings, half pleading. Vianale has a knack for lines that are abstract enough to be soft but real enough to feel like you could have thought it. Much of the album tackles insecurity in many forms, from physical to romantic (“See Thru Girl,” “Swallowing Hair”), but some tracks tap into a hard to name, but poignant sort of pain. The album is dedicated to a high school friend who passed away in the spring, whose death spurred a wave of introspection in Vianale, resulting in tracks that communicate sheer emotional struggle (“Teething”).

Her instrumental elements deserve just as much praise. Vianale has full command of the classic shoegazey guitar sound: fuzzy and reverb-ed out so you feel surrounded by them. The bass and guitars have such a richness of tone that it feels like they tower around Vianale and her vocals; they make walls that make the album cozy.

The instrumental elements are so sparse, the drums pop out as well. They make for a comforting foothold into the music—Vianale is, by her own admission, not a strong drummer, so the beats are simple and relatively uninvolved, but not so simple that they’re useless. The minimal percussion creates a backbone –again, simple—for the guitars and vocals to rest on, and punches up the tracks so they don’t feel too spacey or untethered.

I don’t want to get too carried away and call it the perfect dream pop album, but it ticks a whole hell of a lot of boxes for me. “Swallowing Hair” alone, a spot-on bittersweet love song, cemented this album as one of my favorites of the year, let alone smart and earthy tracks like “See Thru Girl” and richer ones like “No Honey.”

Vianale is a down-to-earth musician who puts that quality in her music as much in her words. Schwartz Goes to Heaven is cozy and perfectly packaged, a little seven-track heartwarmer.

 

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