Atlanta, GA’s Black Swan Lane has become an institution in the modern post punk scene. Formed in the mid 00’s by Jack Sobel, John Kolbeck, and Mark Burgess, they’ve remained dedicated to nurturing emotional responses out of listeners worldwide through an intoxicating mix of lyrics, soulful vocals, and stellar instrumentation. Early listeners may have been attracted to the band by the connection to The Chameleons, which is understandable – but the years after Mark Burgess (lead singer of The Chameleons) moved on have seen the strongest Black Swan Lane albums. Now down to a duo, the band features multiple guest players on each album. Vita Eterna is the 8th full length offering from Black Swan Lane – and their finest album to date.
The first thing you’ll want to take note of with this record is the album cover. Gothic in tone, yet lighter in tone than Joy Division’s Closer cover, it sets the scene for the music contained within. Dave Fielding of The Chameleons, The Reegs, and Coconut Dog Fuck lends his guitar expertise to this album. His playing on record has been sorely missed in recent years, and it is wonderful to hear his distinctive style on a Black Swan Lane record. Lyrically, we are in dark territory – my favorite place. Musically, it is a bit of a mix. Classic post punk, crooning, glam – it all sits comfortably together. For me, this album has that intangible “it” quality. I’ve returned to it time and time again in the weeks since I was provided with a review copy. Incredibly, I think this is the strongest Black Swan Lane album – how many bands can say that for their 8th album?
The album kicks off with Pure a mid-tempo gem of an opener. Sobel croons his way through the tune as the instrumentation explodes around him. The Prisoner is even stronger, opening within female vocals before the finest post punk guitar work of 2019 kicks in. A driving, incessant rhythm leaves the listener enthralled. The sound f/x on Sobel’s vocals are a nice touch. It serves as the 1st single from the album. Happy is such a killer song. Glam, angry, sad – you’ve not heard Black Swan Lane like this before. I fucking love it. Also, like most of the lyrical sentiments – I can relate. “Nothing’s gonna make me happy / Cause everything will change again / I can’t breathe…” Tears strives towards the heights reached by U2 and Echo and the Bunnymen in the mid 80’s – and reaches them. Melodic, memorable, emotional – this song is a hit. There’s a moment towards the 2 minute mark where I wondered if Jack had moved away from the mic to create an emotional impact – it really creates a nice moment within the context of the song. The End Is the Same is an acoustic workout, the type of song that Black Swan Lane excels at. It is all at once soothing & dreamy. Tremble has wicked guitars, incredible vocals, sad lyrics – just a perfect song. I played this on repeat a few times, singing at the top of my lungs. “Now everything is gone / now everything is over” Slip is a late album highlight – sounding like something that would soundtrack a John Hughes movie in the 80’s. I mean that as the highest compliment possible.
Once again, Black Swan Lane have delivered a masterful record. You can pick up the album now directly from the band here.
Verdict: Masterful post punk album
For Fans of: The Chameleons, Kitchens of Distinction, Joy Division, U2, Echo & the Bunnymen
- The Prisoner
- Shadow of the Stars
- The End is the Same
- These Old Wounds
- Silence of the Heart
- Two Oceans
- Sea of Me