Swimming Tapes – Morningside

'Morningside' never seems to truly lift off, though it often threatens to.
Label: Hand In Hive
Released: 24th May 2019
Rating: ★★★

It’s 2019 and the crest of the surf pop revival wave is now well and truly lapping at the shore. It had a good few years of heady nostalgia and chilled out vibes, but now nearly everyone has packed up their boards and headed off to new horizons. Even The Beach Boys didn’t stick with it for long and went out in search of new sounds because they knew they couldn’t just rely on that California vibe.

London via Dublin five-piece Swimming Tapes appear to have been left behind though. Four years on from the release of their sun-drenched debut single ‘Souvenirs’ and they’ve finally released their debut ‘Morningside’, but it all feels a little too late.

There are only so many times you can dip into the same pool of nostalgia before it starts to become rote. Early tracks like ‘Mirador’ and ‘It Gets Old’ feel practically indistinguishable; the same jangly guitars playing the same jangly melodies under the same plaintive vocals.

The sun that shone so brightly on ‘Souvenirs’ and ‘Cameos’, two exceptional songs from the bands’ beginnings, now seems like a distant memory. After hitting that magic early on, with their first two EPs, it now feels like Swimming Tapes’ ship has sailed without them. As in many of their lyrics, the band themselves appear to be chasing those days gone by.

When Swimming Tapes do mix things up, however, the match finally seems to strike. ‘Say It Isn’t So’ slows things right down, letting those jangly guitars and harmonies settle into something wistfully gorgeous. Closer ‘In The New Year’, while not quite as successful, feels just at the right tempo to effectively capture that melancholic yearning too.

The rest of ‘Morningside’ almost feels like a band in search of those moments. It never seems to truly lift off, though it often threatens to, and it can become something of a frustratingly unremarkable experience.

Production is sharp, for sure, and the weaving melodies as woozy and tender as you might expect. But ‘Morningside’ doesn’t do much to stick with you after those closing seconds. Like a Spoons breakfast, it hits the spot when you’re there but it’s not something to shout about.

Chris Taylor

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