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Swan Lake
Enemy Mine Shain Shapiro , April 16th, 2009 10:44

Critically appraising the parts that make up the Swan Lake whole is a problematic task. The individual songwriters involved — Carey Mercer (Frog Eyes), Daniel Bejar (The New Pornographers, Destroyer) and Spencer Krug (Wolf Parade, Frog Eyes, Sunset Rubdown) — piece together their strengths as if assembling a compilation rather than an coherent album.

Sophomore record Enemy Mine attempts to blur this, and these songs scream to be taken on their own merit, away from the writers' day jobs. But after giving it half a dozen listens, treating it as more than a piecemeal project is a challenge. Enemy Mine, like their debut Beast Moans, is nothing more than a jumbled mess masquerading as an eccentric pop album.

That's not to say that treating certain songs individually doesn't reveal many moments to love. Take 'Paper Lace', a taut acoustic number led by Spencer Krug alongside rollicking Merseyside beats and angular guitar accompaniament. Remove the cryptic lyrics and overbearing background instrumentation, and a good song is revealed.

This is a problem encountered throughout Enemy Mine. Strip these songs bare enough, and there are some delightfully pretty moments. It goes for 'Settle On Your Skin', a more affronting new-wave affair that recalls David Byrne. Yet unnecessary eccentricities beneath the murky progression almost discourage the song to evolve, individual ideas win out over collective restraint, and it ends up sounding Unnecessarily complex. Too often, each member tries to join in on another's party, and everything ends up cramped and suffocated. Eccentricity is a far higher priority than fluidity, and Swan Lake pay scant attention to blending each songwriter's strengths.

This is a trio clearly blessed with labyrinthine melodic skill, but that has unfortunately not resulted in Enemy Mine becoming a worthwhile listen — any substance remains just slightly out of grasp. This project may function as an outlet in which these three individuals feel they can experiment in a different form from their other groups, but for the rest of us Enemy Mine unfortunately sees them blown up by their own self-indulgence.