Black Swan Lane have been steadily building a genuinely impressive musical archive for just over ten years now, while perpetually lurking in the shadows of Atlanta’s music scene. But it’s the shadows where they’re clearly most content…and, indeed, it’s from where their music most often seems to emanate.
Anchored by Jack Sobel (vocals, guitars, drums, percussion and keyboards) and John Kolbeck (guitars, bass, keyboards and backing vocals), BSL excel at recordings of exquisite splendor, drama and dark undercurrents. Several decades prior, they’d have been at home on a label such as 4AD, Fiction or Creation in their discerningly curated heydays. There are elements of shoegaze, dark wave and dreampop in the band’s sound, but their lyrics and presentation reach deeper, more personal levels than those subgenres usually strive for. Sobel’s rich baritone is natural and affecting, his words often coming from a place of loneliness, depression and pain, which could be a downer were it not for the beautiful swirl of sounds surrounding it all.
The group’s recently released seventh album, Under My Fallen Sky, is the length of a double LP, the CD arranged as such with an instrumental interlude separating two halves. There are no duds whatsoever, but “How Can I Know,” “Stop to Smile,” “Trust,” “A Walk in the Cold,” “Golden Black” and “Behind Your Window” rank within the top of the BSL hierarchy. Special praise must be given to Lauren Fay (a longtime collaborator who was also involved with their previous project, Messengers) and Gretchen Copeland, whose backing vocals lend a magical aura to many of the 14 tracks.
Primarily a studio-focused project (working in Sobel’s well-stocked home setup), the production (by Sobel and Kolbeck) is superb. The years of hands-on recording, not to mention progressively assembling an arsenal of high-end gear and gizmos, has paid off – Under My Fallen Sky sounds positively pristine. But their recording perfectionism also isolates them – largely purposely so, it strikes me. Middle-aged men, with businesses, families and other responsibilities pulling at them, BSL only gets the attention that time and sacrifice allows. They rarely play shows, and whenever they do their discomfort with it is evident – they’re professional, they play really well, sound mighty fine, but there’s a disconnect. In a live setting, they never truly attain any significant level of emotional engagement with the audience. It’s a shame, because it’s limited their potential success, but as I stated earlier, the shadows seem to be where they’re most secure. And as a communiqué from crevices unnoticed, it seldom gets more stunning than Under My Fallen Sky.
Black Swan Lane
Under My Fallen Sky