By Hannah Wisterman
Artist: Ian Sweet
Album: Crush Crusher
Release Date: October 26, 2018
Label: Hardly Art
Jilian Medford, the quintessentially indie frontwoman behind Ian Sweet, is remarkably reminiscent of the grungey queens of the ‘90s. Her voice has the echoey, soft wisp of Hope Sandoval (Mazzy Star) and the upturned lilts of Dolores O’Riordan (The Cranberries). Even her lo-fi sound feels just a little ‘90s, with crashing drums, guitar riffs wound tight in cycles, and Medford’s occasional wails and yelps fading into fuzz. It’s a successful combination of techniques, making her sophomore release Crush Crusher a dreamy album that feels as nostalgic as it does fresh.
The lead single “Hiding,” which opens Crush Crusher, starts slow and simple, but 30 seconds in, Medford crashes into the signature lilting croons and reverbed-out guitars that carry throughout the album. What sets it apart from other dream pop singles is simple: it’s dynamic. The guitar lines have bite under their fuzz, and the reverb is spacious enough to make the track feel big and developed. There’s also something haunting about the line “I forgot myself in you,” which Medford dwells on and builds for the majority of the track. It’s deceivingly romantic, surface-level darling but in actuality, a warning from Medford to herself to “never get consumed with anything to the point of forgetting about [her] own needs” (Consequence of Sound).
The semi-dazed, mournful “Hiding” is followed immediately by the punchy and driving “Spit,” which is frenetic, bemoaning an impending doom before diverting into an almost shoegazey guitar interlude, highlighted with a high drone that subtly tethers the track. Medford continues this pattern throughout Crush Crusher: she can get dreamy and spacey, but no sooner has she done that than she’s switched to grungy, heavily involved guitars and thrashing layers of sound, and then right back. It’s a relief; dream pop can run the risk of getting too sleepy, but Medford’s guitar give it a pulse, so to speak.
Another couple of shoutouts need to be given to “Falling Fruit” and “Your Arms Are Water,” which share a similar but materially different structure: they capture in single tracks the theme of switching from spacey to intense. In “Falling Fruit,” verses are dreamy and low-key, but the choruses switch into big wailing vocals, undercut by a subtly pushy guitar line. “Your Arms Are Water” is an echo, with plucky but soft verses that space into soaring but spare choruses. But by the end of the track, the two merge, Medford’s vocals floating over an up-tempo guitar line. Bottom line is, Medford knows how to place things in contrast and opposition together in such a way that they work together to make tracks dynamic.
Crush Crusher is making its way across everyone’s hype lists, and this is why: Ian Sweet is a dynamic project that knows what works and takes advantage of it. Combined with Medford’s gifted voice and truly choice songwriting, Crush Crusher is a step forward in an exciting way.