I’ll be honest here: I’d only heard Max Swan’s “Shackles” and “Runaway” from his recently-released Slow Jail at the time of deciding to write this piece. That said, those two songs on opposite sides of the musical spectrum told me all I needed to know about the project (above). It’s an incredible collection of work that runs the gamut in terms of influences and, perhaps more importantly, soul.
On “Runaway,” Swan evokes Prince’s falsetto and funky instrumentation. Meanwhile, on “Shackles,” he hops on a bit of a boisterous rap-esque instrumental to provide us some honest and self-aware lyricism. Now the rest of the album isn’t a slouch either. Instead, it serves as a very soulful and beautiful mix between jazzy instrumentation, retro vocals and modern hip-hop sensibilities.
On songs such as “Filler,” the Philly native sings about a doomed relationship and what happens when the dream is gone and the luster has faded. The production on this one reminds me a bit of a 90s R&B song, specifically because of the boombap of the drums and the simple chords played throughout the song. Add in the vocals sounding like a mix between Tyrese and Sam Smith, and you’ve got one hell of a song. In fact, you’ve got one helluva project when you run it from top to bottom.
As mentioned, the influences and sounds run wide and deep. I know it’s cliched to say that there’s something for everyone here, but there truly is something for everyone on this project. Slow burner? Check. Upbeat bop? Check. Introspection? You betcha. A bit of existentialist thought about the self? Yeah, there’s even some of that here as well.
Don’t just take my word for it. I mean, listen to me and listen to this. However, it’s one of those projects that’s better experienced than just read about. Check it out above and remember to support dope music in all its forms.