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Swim Good’s Callaway is an ambient electro-pop holiday

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Jon Lawless has an impressive resume of artists he’s worked with. He cites Bon Iver and The Avalanches as two, but it looks like only recently he’s started to push out his own work. Under the moniker of Swim Good, Jon flexes his MIDI keyboard muscle rather adroitly; perhaps the masters have taught the apprentice well?

jon lawless art

Jon Lawless steps into the spotlight under his guise of Swim Good. Boasting air tight production and stellar vocals from Dana Williams, Callaway is a winner.

Hailing from Canada, Lawless isn’t very interested in projecting the wintery depression that blankets his land. In fact, he exports a very delicate, low tempo, ambient electronica that stands in stark contrast to the gruff hardiness of most of his country’s native vegetation. Teaming up with “modern-day Ella Fitzgerald”, LA-based singer Dana Williams, Lawless has given us Callaway.

Williams’ vocal talents dominate the track, as they effortlessly and seamlessly glide up and down along the powerful melodic lines. The cloudy production placed on top of Williams’ tracking is so brilliant it deserves to be thought of as nebular.

That’s because the production deftly links those guest vocals to the real star of the show; Lawless’ unobtrusive, magic-spinning. Lawless has multiple ticks and beats rolling along, bringing new layers and buildups in and out with the ease of clown spinning-plates on a unicycle. For example, as Williams’ voice ascends the chair lift of Melody Mountain, little violins enter the fray to add comforting support. Considering the song’s ambience, its length and abrupt finish leave a strong sense of lingering and longing. Rather cruelly, all we’re left with is only a quick rendition of the chorus, with Williams assuring us that she’s “only a call away” (perhaps the confusion with the world’s biggest maker of golf clubs was deliberate then?).

If we cast our lines back to his past and the world wide web, we can happen on a collaboration Lawless did with Bon Iver’s drummer S. Carey and Daniela Andrade, entitled Grand Beach. While this song, in my super professional opinion, isn’t as good as Callaway. If you don’t enjoy the ambient side of things, then Grand Beach‘s overload of activity might boil your noodle. Whereas Callaway was a soft electro-pop sort of setup, Grand Beach belongs more towards the Bon Iver (indie folk) end of things, although in saying that, Andrade’s parts are rather similar to Callaway.

Finally, under his own name, Lawless has also put out Hits Me Hard. It’s not under the name of Swim Good, but this song is rather similar to Callaway. Rather neatly, seeing as something like Grand Beach was leaning towards Bon Iver’s music, Hits Me Hard goes another direction, towards The Avalanches. Whilst all of Lawless’ tracks here definitely have ambient underpinnings, the random samples layered in Hits Me Hard is a reminder of plunderphonics. It’s not “That boy needs therapy/Psychosomatic” levels of weirdness, but it’s on that path, the very start of that path at least. For The Avalanches, that path has meant releasing a really really good album fifteen years ago and almost nothing else since. Hopefully, for Jon Lawless/Swim Good, it’ll bear more fruit.

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April 24, 2015