The growth and progression in sound of a band like Tiny Moving Parts through the years is something that a lot of groups strive for as they expand their catalogs. Each release from the Minnesotan three-piece band has been full of unique soundscapes that blend styles of emo, math-rock, post-hardcore, and pop punk. Since their first release of This Couch is Long and Full of Friendship back in 2013, their sound has grown heavier and more explosive, while still featuring the emotional deliveries and intricate riffs only available from front man Dylan Mattheisen. The new album, Swell, is the band’s most confident and skillful attempt yet, and is another great addition to their discography.
The album opens with the second of three singles, “Applause”, and is a great refresher of what this band is capable of. The familiar rapid shifts in trajectory and time changes are noticeably cleaner and tighter, and they’ve still got as much energy as ever. A lot of the instrumentation of the songs on Swell is also much brighter and refined than on that of their last album, Celebrate. In the next song, “Smooth it Out”, and later on in “Malfunction”, synths and keys are mixed in that have almost a playful sound that is reminiscent of bands like The Front Bottoms or Antarctigo Vespucci. Mattheisen’s vocals are still as anxious and urgent as ever, and flow fantastically over the complex melodies and pop oriented choruses. The song “Whale Watching” has a frantic pace that is matched perfectly with the surging vocals and rapid fire chorus. Many overarching themes and connections from past albums are still present in the lyrics, but they’re explored through various different perspectives. Mattheisen says the album title comes from the idea of brain cells sort of “swelling with happiness” and overcoming fears, anxiety, doubts, and negativity, and also just simply trying to stay optimistic through hard times.
Tiny Moving Parts is a band that never fails to push themselves into new territory with each new release, and Swell is no different. While the album is a step forward for the band, it also comes off as Tiny Moving Part’s most accessible work as well. There’s familiarity in the style of play and cadence in the songs, the group’s sound continues to evolve and improve as something new can be found in each subsequent listen.