Swoone - Handcuffed Heart

by James Weiskittel Rating:8 Release Date:2018-08-10
Swoone - Handcuffed Heart
Swoone - Handcuffed Heart

The brainchild of singer Siobhan de Maré (of the 90’s Brit-trip-hop duo Mono), and producer/composer Gary Bruce, Swoone’s debut release Handcuffed Heart is an intriguing mix of the sultry vocals and cinematic soundscapes. Over the course of the album’s eleven tracks, the London-based duo skillfully mixes drum-loops, effects-laden guitars and sweeping synths with de Maré’s evocative voice for a sound that instantly evokes the ‘slow-burn’ aesthetic of yesteryear’s trip-hop’s (Portishead, Sneaker Pimps, etc.).

With Bruce’s ethereal instrumentation setting the stage for de Maré’s soulful vocals, the album-opening “This Bullet Never Kills” provides a template for much of what follows. Meanwhile, the confessional “Breaking Down” (where de Maré’ pleads Can anybody help me? Can anybody see me?), and the surprisingly catchy “Empty Buildings” (all I see, empty buildings surrounding me) are tangible examples of de Mare’s heartfelt and candid lyrical musings.

Be it the shimmering chords of “Run”, the arena-ready dynamics of “Set Me Free”, or the processed percussion of “Strange Love”, Bruce does an admirable job of providing a bevy of varied sonic backdrops for de Maré’s moody vocal work. While the duo occasionally flirts with what can be safely described as inoffensive new-age, Swoone is at its most engaging on the record’s more haunting numbers, like the industrial-tinged standout track “The Sun Has Died” and the sparse “Pearlesque”.

That being said, Handcuffed Heart is not completely devoid of missteps; as de Maré’s melodramatic delivery is often out of sync with Bruce’s ambient production choices. That (admittedly subjective) criticism aside, Handcuffed Heart is, for the most part, an impressively realized (albeit, somewhat derivative) vision.

Demonstrating that most of the pieces are already in place, Swoone’s debut album manages to provide both an intriguing listen as well as a concrete foundation for future releases. A no-brainer for fans of de Mare’s previous work, Swoone’s Handcuffed Heart will more than likely intrigue (and potentially satisfy) trip-hop and new age fans alike.

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