By Eric Chavez
There’s a spark in the music of Athlete that cannot be missed. It’s pretty bright, actually. In the new electronic age of music, where everything from hip-hop to salsa is adding some digital beats to make them more 2010, Athlete are racing rock to the new age of electronic rock. Black Swan isn’t entirely electronic rock, but also a refreshing mix of indie rock, acoustic rock and ballads. Fans of older tracks like “El Salvador” will love the growth of the group, and anti-indie rock peeps will finally see that the genre isn’t all pretentious and bad.
“Superhuman Touch” gets Black Swan to a graceful beginning. A splash of rock and a wave of electronica set the tone for the rest of the album. It’s “Superhuman Touch” that has that special touch to make it the white swan of the album. The “Black Swan Song” is as striking as the title song would have you believe. A beautiful goodbye song done with a rare, beautiful treatment of a rhythm, the song shows what this band is made of.
Surprisingly, the album’s first single, “The Getaway,” is one of the album’s weakest links. A bit too all over the place, the song seems to get away from its original sweet sound to the hardcorest rock you can imagine, and you can’t help but wonder why. The rest of the album is a herd of hits, though.
“Don’t Hold Your Breath” breathes some fresh air into the typical indie rock sound. Fresh and flowly, the song rides free from any past conventions. Aiming for a simpler sound at times, “Love Come Rescue” lets the band lay back and dive into the acoustic soft-rock world. “Light the Way” turns things around back to the classic rock sound. Spinning around again, Athlete adds the new-wave sound of the ’80s glow through the disc’s songs. After “Superhuman Touch,” other tracks like “The Unknown” and “Magical Mistakes” step back in time to reclaim the era of electronic rock done right.
Closing things off, “Rubik’s Cube” ends the LP on a sadder, sullen beat. Driven by a simple piano melody and guitar strokes, the song shows the band at their most personal.
After this bird has flown, there’s just no denying that Athlete have what it takes to fly to the sky. Black Swan is easily the band’s best effort, with 2004’s Tourist coming in close second. But it is Black Swan that gets this Athlete the gold.