The Best Album You’ve Never Heard (SWAN)

The Best Album Youve Never Heard (SWAN)

In last week’s entry we reviewed Hudson Lee’s “Reflex Angle,” and this week I will be taking a look at one of my top contenders for the best album released all year—and of course, barely many people have heard it. SWAN by Eli Warren, known by the stage name “grape milk” (yes, you heard that right) is a culmination of all the chaos you would expect from an artist who goes by such a name. SWAN in style is an electronic-pop type album with a lot of high-energy tracks slowly turning into a more emotional and existential piece. It is definitely not for everyone, but hopefully a quick breakdown can peak the interests of some. This one is a long one, so buckle up.

The album’s intro may be a big setoff for a lot of listeners. Titled, “CUTI3 PI33333333,” (Well then.) this is a more comedic start to an album, a rap song of sorts that barely takes itself seriously. It is a not-so-warm welcome into the energy this album hopes to bring. From there, we move into the first actual song, “WE ARE ON VACATION.” This song, as described by Eli himself, was meant to be a fun beach song, with catchy melodies and lyrics keeping the track going. The first half of this album seems to not take itself too seriously, showing first all the fun moments and stories Eli hopes to tell.

After this is the third song, “Pizza Date.” This song is a perfect example of the humor in Eli’s songwriting, a fun and upbeat indie-pop song about sharing a pizza with somebody. In general, the first half of the album consists of more upbeat pieces and slowly gets more emotional, almost as if this album, meant to be a recount of the past few years of Eli’s life, is trying to present the good first to hide the bad. After that is one of my personal favorites, “you make my body itch” (these titles do not get any less weird). Despite the creepy title, this song is an anthem, calling back to the old EDM sounds of the 2010s mixed with Eli’s fun pop style. The upbeat energy of the last 4 songs just keeps going in full force.

“DEMONS IN HAIR” is the next song, which is Eli’s take on a traditional trap song. With great lyrics and an extremely catchy chorus, this song pulls you in, closing with a climactic instrumental electronic finish to finish what I would call the “ENERGY” portion of the album.

From there, we move to what I will describe as the “ANGER” section. I call it such because the first song in it is called “i was really angry when i made this.” This song is on the shorter side, with vocals that get more and more loud from Eli as he rambles on about the things of which he is tired. From there is another angry song, “DON’T CONTROL MY LIFE.” This song is one of the album’s highlights, with intense drums, a higher tempo, and a very recognizable chorus. To close off this section we have “BABY.” This song, in short, is the most loud and the most heavy of the entire album, with extremely loud bass and drums topped with Eli’s usual singing, but at a slower pace.

Track 9 is my personal favorite from the entire album, “Magic Select.” This song is just full of energy, upbeat, happy, and never feels repetitive. With one of Eli’s best hooks, this song brings back the energy that may have been lost due to the 3 songs before it. The best way I can describe this song is to simply suggest checking it out later. The listen will be very worth it.

The last few songs are where the album takes a sudden emotional turn. While Eli is known for the high energy hyper-pop music present throughout this album so far, he can also make very beautiful and emotional pieces. One such is “First Floor”, a collaboration with a friend of his, Ryan Leahan. First Floor is a much more chilled back song, with a very bass-heavy intro getting more and more melodic and ambient as it goes on. Ryan’s verse is the highlight of this song, a good second voice in a primarily solo album.

If “magic select” was my favorite song on this project, track 11 may be second place. The next song, “sobering fact”, is an incredible work. It is a much more sad approach to Eli’s normal music, with a more laid back ambient instrumental and quieter vocals at first. The song eventually picks up with Eli’s usual drum choice, and ends in a distorted mess of the chorus, chopped up with other parts of the song to truly bring the impact of whatever this “sobering fact” may be. This description does not do this song justice, and like “magic select”, I recommend checking this one out too.

The next two songs can be grouped together, “Beauty Queen” and “It’s Perfect.” These two songs showcase Eli’s more laid-back side. “Beauty Queen” is a laid back piece with a UK-garage style of drumming (lots of shuffling percussion, almost as if you are in a garage). the following song is entirely instrumental ambient, a nice break for the listener to relax as the album nearly reaches its closing.

Another garage-style song is next, “Closed Eyes Feel Warmer.” This song, with not as much emphasis on Eli’s voice, has a very simple melody carrying the entire song. Like “it’s perfect”, this song is a nice relaxation for the finale.

The last three songs are a beautiful sendoff to the entire project. Track 15, titled bluntly as “i hate everything” really gives the listener the setting this album was made in, 2020 and beyond. This song discusses the loneliness the Pandemic gave Eli and how he appears to, as he sings, “hate everything in town.” Like “sobering fact,” this song ends in a distorted mess of the chorus and loud drums, showing again how this anger has gotten to him.

And finally, we have the album’s climax, “TEMPER.” This song is a journey in all of its six minutes. It combines everything SWAN was achieving to do, loud pop music, high energy, yet an emotional piece that somehow still does not need to take itself seriously. The ending is a beautiful sendoff to the entire album, with a drawn out lyric, “maybe I’m not perfect” along with loud rock drums and distorted sounds to really show that the journey is over.

The album ends in a shorter ambient outro, similar to “it’s perfect.” The ending song, conveniently titled “bad ending Mp5”, may show that despite what TEMPER suggested, life goes on. The journey may not be over, which is why the song does a bad job at being an ending to the album.

I hope I did not talk too much about one of my favorite works, so I will be brief with my final words. This album is beautiful. It has so many twists and turns that I simply could not describe well enough to truly convince someone how good this whole project is. My final score out of 10 is a 9.4, and I see it unlikely that something will beat this. See you in next week’s entry!