Serious question: what do you think of when someone mentions Taylor Swift? Nashville? The cute and quirky persona with bouncing blonde hair and oh so silly cat ears? That less than desirable song of hers where she makes a fool of herself dancing, thus sending a wave of cringe across the lands? To be honest I’m not sure where this discussion is going, but for the purpose of this article let’s refer to Black Swift as the alter (much cooler) ego of T-Swiz. It’ll be fun, promise*.
The black sheep of the Swift family tree, Black Swift is as authentic as they come wielding a winning mix of Americana rock, blues, post-punk and a killer voice to boot!
Black Swift – aka Sally Grayson – is captivating, full of soul, conviction and the essence of hearty American rock. Forget Nashville, Grayson resides in New Buffalo, MI where she formed the persona, supported by Steffen Eifert, Tobias Unrath and David Arzt on various instruments. The standout instrument though is her voice. Her vocals are raw and rough and rugged, and basically any other descriptive word starting with ‘r’ that can convey how natural Grayson is at what she does.
Black Swift’s first full length release, The World Howls, encapsulates a blend of straight up Americana rock, blues and post-punk. The ten track album is interesting both musically and production wise. Grayson and her team are effective in using blank space throughout the album, leaving moments in various songs to soak in the atmosphere or just for dramatic effect.
My Short-Lived Shadow is captivating and dark. Beginning slowly, as if to creep up on your ears, the song grows to climax into a repetitive, almost shoe-gazey, wall of sound. Grayson’s vocals dance across the solemn tone of the song, finishing with a decent hit of static at the end. Spooky. Just as a sidenote: the following track, Tragedy Magnet, sounds eerily like Missy Higgins. Track five, Rusty Sounds Go Silent, is as if beloved T-Swiz’s carnival themed performance for the 2012 EMA’s took a chaotic American Horror Story turn. The inclusion of an accordion and distant backing vocals of men yelling brings this concept to life, as it transports you to another world. A little bit bluesy, a little bit circus – this song is going to keep you in a wonderful trance.
The penultimate and title track, The World Howls, is just another example of Grayson’s comfort in her musical position. Everything from the bluesy rhythm to the strength in her vocals feels impressively natural. Even whilst singing “He’s all chained up/he’s howling/aaoooohhh/I’d like to see the neighbour’s dog free”, she exerts sophistication. Would a certain pop star be able to howl like a wolf during a song and still maintain maturity? Case closed.
One could say Taylor Swift is manufactured, predictable or average. Black Swift is none of these. This artist is authentic, engaging and bursting at the seams with raw talent that money can’t buy. Whilst some artists need novelties or performance elements to create good music, Black Swift utilises real emotion, minimal instruments and diegetic sound to create great music. One things for sure, Sally Grayson is a character to watch.
Black Swift is currently touring around Germany during November and December. Their first album, The World Howls, is available now on iTunes and Spotify.
*I’ll allow it (ala Simpsons quote)
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