T.Gagnon - Swoon
Record Label: Self-Released
Release Date: June 10, 2014
I never planned on writing this review, which essentially serves as proof of how pleasantly surprised I was to stumble upon Swoon in an Absolutepunk forum. If that’s not enough, take into account that T.Gagnon is now also Fastest Kid in School’s latest Featured Artist (slated to appear on our Fall Compilation this September), and you may begin to realize my complete adoration for Timothy Gagnon and co. It’s not that Swoon is perfect in any capacity; rather, the production is muddy at times, and it is clear that T.Gagnon has room to grow musically. But as a debut release, Swoon is a hidden gem in a sea of unsigned releases. Nothing feels contrived of trite; every word is genuine, every note fitting. Swoon feels like a perfect encapsulation of fleeting youth, as well as both the good and bad that accompany its end.
I suppose I should start by clarifying that T.Gagnon is a spoken word artist accompanied by music, much in the same vein as mewithoutYou and La Dispute. The difference is that there doesn’t seem to be much of a punk or hardcore influence to be found; in its place, opener “Bathtub Astrology” and its twinkling guitars seem to recall artists like Explosions in the Sky, and even noises and production tricks reminiscent of Brand New, circa-The Devil and God are Raging Inside Me, appear throughout the rest of the EP. Meanwhile, the emphasis falls on Gagnon’s words and delivery, which succeed in playing a large role without feeling too theatrical or over-the-top (a major complaint some have regarding the artists above). “But I miss a friend who used to tell me/’The world’s a collection of drunk dialers and smooth operators/And the ones worth a call left their phones off their receivers,” Gagnon writes, managing to fit the words somewhere between “stargazing dots on the ceiling tiles” and “joining you on the floor as you map the constellations”.
If this appeals to you, consider it merely an introduction as “November, 1999” is easily the EP’s emotional centerpiece. The song explodes with upbeat and quick-paced guitars, contrasted by some of Gagnon’s most vivid lyricism:
“I have this subconscious reel of footage/Collections of us flying off bicycles and meeting pavement when we were kids/Looking at our skin splitting and muscles squirming/Exploring bodies; that’s called experimenting/Bandage me, call that stability”
It’s hard to convey the best points of lyricism on an EP that seems to continually top itself, especially without spoiling some of the discovery for you, the listener. “November, 1999” finally sinks into an interlude of sorts, “Fold/Unfold,” which acts as the turning point of Swoon. “Fold/Unfold” is dark, tired and telling, but it leads to a more hopeful tone in the album’s back half.
“Leave your hometown/It’s just oxygen you’re stealing.”
“Slow Anthem” is perfectly titled, revolving around a surreal two or three keyboard harmonies. “I think this is love/I’m watching your delirious dancing in the back of a club/I wish this was love,” says Gagnon, preluding a feeling that will echo with most listeners- a revealing calm that slides into the album's title track and conclusion. “The Swoon” is musically bare and fitting, expanding on feelings conveyed in “Slow Anthem” but taking on a heartbreaking turn:
“The way we spun an open bar heart swell into something we could believe in/I don’t know if they make rings for thoughts like this/But I think I believed in you the minute I met you./I left because you kept trying to find me a reason not to.”
The song still feels calm, the way we do when we come to a realization we can’t avoid and so we finally just accept it, and in the end, that’s exactly what Swoon is about- an exorcism of feelings, and a collection of stories that luckily surpasses specifics and resonates deeply with anyone going through the anxiety of finding themselves at school or in a serious relationship. I discovered this EP by accident, but I want to believe I wrote this review because I was supposed to, and because of the chance Swoon might speak to one of its potential listeners the same way it spoke to me.
This review originally appeared on my site, Fastest Kid in School. Swoon can be downloaded as "name your price" on T.Gagnon's Bandcamp page.