Fans of Choir Boy are in for a treat. It’s been years since Salt Lake City’s indie pop favorite released their debut Passive with Desire, and the wait is finally over. Gathering Swans is a dream pop/goth collection that came straight out of a synth cathedral. The album takes you to a spiritual journey. Each song is like a church hymn — if they were played on synths by flying cherubs who were influenced by 80’s new wave. Adam Klopp’s vocals are the star of the show, with a softness and yearning that ties all the tracks together. His singing is unique and deserves much attention, it’s as if he dropped out from a Gregorian Chant monastery and started a pop group to enlighten us mere mortals. The supporting cast is no slouch either, Chaz Costello lays down the bass as a solid support while Jeff Kleinman adds layers of color on the keyboards and sax.
There are a lot of gems in this album, like “Toxic Eye”, which is depicted in the cover art. Already you can hear the romantic harmony of the vocals and synths, with soft “dah-dah-dah’s” that will propel you to the clouds despite the somber lyrics. The single “Complainer” is an earworm and a half. The rhythmic pulsing of the synths will shake your limbs to the beat while Klopp’s Choir Boy vocal aesthetic truly shines with his operatic and falsetto chops.
“Sweet Candy” is another standout. Caramel to the core but wrapped in a thick layer of melancholy. The song depicts a craving for someone to love: “Makes you wish you never held them in your hands, sweet candy”. “Shatter” has the most instrumental depth. Subtle percussion and synths coalesce together as Klopp searches for his life’s meaning: “What does it matter? / With no purpose I will turn to glass / With no morals I will / Shatter”.
The album ends with the title track, which is in my opinion the band’s best in terms of composition. This is a deeply solemn and spiritual experience for me, having grown up in a religious background similar to Klopp (and having sung in a choir myself). I can definitely see parallels to a Catholic service in terms of melody and instrumentation. Themes of mystery, suffering and mercy are explored with the most euphoric vocal delivery that every choir boy would recognize, complete with Church bells ringing at the end.
Gathering Swans is nothing short of a revelation. Lumping this group as a 80’s nostalgia band should warrant you a visit to an ear doctor. This album does something remarkable — it’s an otherworldly experience that could make everyone feel, regardless of what beliefs they hold.
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