Columbia indie-rock trio The Sweaters goes the distance with 'Not Again'

·3 min read
"Not Again"
"Not Again"

The most vital rhythms heard on "Not Again," the new album from The Sweaters, are not played by guitar, bass or drums.

Sure, the Columbia trio of Ben Cohen, Henry Cohen and Anders Harms lock arms, creating compelling fits and starts and gliding indie-rock grooves. But the rhythm which anchors the record is one of creating — or perhaps, more accurately, observing — distance, then closing it.

Sweaters songs often open in a state of cool remove, Henry Cohen's cloudy, melodic guitar tone and Harms' dynamic bass setting the scene for Ben Cohen's voice to float in like a baritone ghost. Tracks progressively, inevitably heat up, minding the gap and echoing rhythms of alienation and connection.

Whether such alienation is caused by the pandemic, the hot-to-the-touch uncertainty of love or the band's relative youth — and "Not Again" tracks offer varied readings — The Sweaters faithfully move each song toward something like resolution.

Doing so, they claim their share of an inheritance — of quiet and loud, whisper, then roar — perfected by the Pixies and passed down to several generations of rock kids.

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"Not Again" opens with "Beauxgart" and the timbres of guitar and bass intertwined; the song picks up, growing more propulsive as Ben Cohen's vocals and drums enter the mix.  The song swells into mid-tempo form, with pop-up storms of guitar noise occurring in the background.

"Cruiser" follows, with peals of feedback and Harms' active bass introducing one of the band's best choruses to date.

An early standout, "Aquinas: Fishfaced" eavesdrops on the trio playing at the edges of their tightly-coiled sound, gesturing toward creative freedom and growth. Henry Cohen's inky guitar, often in league with bands such as The Smiths and The Cure, frames these 3 1/2 minutes, offering the tension seeking release.

That let-it-out moment comes late as Ben Cohen offers a floating howl a la The War on Drugs, then digs in to play a series of thunderclap drum rolls.

Elsewhere, early single "Blue Ra$pberry" sings even more within the context of the record. "Tunnel Under the World" starts with forward-moving acoustic strums, then presents one of the best build-ups on an album full of them, the band rising around Ben Cohen while he sings, "When I die, finish the movie."

While digging around the idea of everlasting love — whether from God or a girl — "PATCO" has a great hitch in its hook, and features vibrant riffs from both Henry Cohen and Harms.

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Harms' piano guides perhaps the most complete track here, "Nikko Gardens," which lives in the narrow spaces between bands like The Walkmen and The National. A lovely melancholy sits at the heart of the track, which is first reinforced, then overcome by Harms' playing.

Album closer "The Massachusetts Teacher's Oath" opens with a lonely, quavering tone and ends with a full-throated chorus, its layered harmonies sending the song's strains out into the atmosphere.

The Sweaters have grown up before Columbia's ears, maturing from a trio of public-school kids to sending its second member to college this fall. "Not Again" is the sound of the band doing what it's learned to do so well, going the distance to close the gap between potential and its fulfillment, promises made and promises kept.

Learn more about The Sweaters, and hear their work at https://thesweaterscomo.bandcamp.com/.

Aarik Danielsen is the features and culture editor for the Tribune. Contact him at adanielsen@columbiatribune.com or by calling 573-815-1731. Find him on Twitter @aarikdanielsen.

This article originally appeared on Columbia Daily Tribune: Local trio The Sweaters goes the distance with new album 'Not Again'