The Plot In You – ‘Swan Song’

By Ian Kenworthy

Swan songs signify endings. If a swan is singing, or so the story goes, it is using its last breath. So when The Plot In You announced the title of their new album as ‘Swan Song’, it was a sure-fire way to kickstart rumours of their demise. If nothing else, it started conversations about the band’s future, but fear not, they’re not going anywhere just yet; this album is a high note of their career.

The Plot In You were riding high on a wave of good reviews off the back of 2018’s ‘Dispose’. Its lead single ‘Feel Nothing’ was a big hit; they could have played it safe. They could have produced a carbon copy of that record’s grubby post-hardcore meets pop sound. Instead, on ‘Swan Song’, they have chosen to extrapolate from it on this fifth outing, taking things – almost everything – into their own hands, self-producing what is easily their most ambitious collection of songs.

Despite the dark underpinning inspiration, the presentation of ‘Swan Song’ has a lot in common with rock bands like Slaves or Emarosa, albeit with a much bleaker, heavier edge. Oh – and it gets heavy. There’s no denying this record can be extremely powerful, with single ‘Fall Again’ being the perfect example. Opening like Beartooth at their angriest, it then swirls through intense and unsettling synths, unleashing its message in a vicious, angsty burst, somehow remaining focused and never losing its sense of melody. At the other end of the spectrum ‘Enemy’ opens like a pop song, to the extent that you could picture a boyband scoring a hit with it until it changes shape, gradually revealing its sharp edges until descending into violence at the mid-point. By using carefully deployed power to reinforce the overall theme, the music is at its strongest.

The easiest way to convey anger and disappointment is a heavy breakdown, but at its best the album uses different approaches. ‘Letters To A Dead Friend’ eases you in with soft pulses, leaning so heavily on the synths that when the biting, caustic lyrics arrive they feel well-earned.  In many ways it comes across like modern post-hardcore but with one edge sharpened and the other softened. By not taking the easy route they have freedom to explore these interesting soundscapes and it’s all pinned together by the album’s theme.

The album is challenging and experimental in so many places. ‘Whole Without Me’ has a pulsing, almost industrial feel, rife with rapid drums and screamed vocals that scour your eardrums. Similarly, ‘Paradigm’ begins as a shimmering, crackly loop before unleashing a hard series of synths intersected by slick twisting guitar riffs. It’s like riding a bucking bronco and if you manage to hang on through its runtime you’ll definitely feel the thrill. Perhaps it’s disappointing that every song isn’t so aggressively individual, but it’s not like the others leave you wanting.

As this is a record explicitly about endings, Tewers doesn’t shy away from using raw and emotional lyrics, or broaching difficult topics, and although the approach has evolved over time the harsh emotional core remains. The soul-bearing intensity is stark on songs like on ‘Too Far Gone’ but the varied, sung delivery makes it far more palatable.

Tewers has an intensely likeable and versatile singing voice, which makes everything quite intoxicating. On ‘Enemy’ the vocal hooks are very powerful, but even the soft rockers like ‘Too Far Gone’ and ‘Too Heavy’ allow him to show off his talent, while also providing respite from the aggression elsewhere. That said, the inclusion of ‘Too Heavy’ does seem strange. A straightforward power ballad, it coasts on his easy crooning, and while not appearing a risky proposition, given the bands roots it seems a good way to alienate part of their fanbase, more so than the aggressively embraced modern pop stylings elsewhere. It’s a shame then it’s the least interesting song here. Despite this, it does maintain the album’s consistent tone, despite approaching it from such a different angle.

While other bands might scatter a few synths or backing tracks over their guitars in an attempt to hang with the in-crowd The Plot In Your are far more confident. It’s clear they are working hard to define what The Plot In You can sound like, and aren’t hedging any bets. When they lean in the pop direction, they commit fully; out go the guitars, in come the synths. When they lean hard in the other, it’s an onslaught of harsh screams and biting guitars. Most songs swing artfully between the two and it’s exhilarating to hear a band committing to these sounds, especially as they pull no punches.

On ‘Dispose’ the band happily drew from both post-hardcore and pop but here they have thrown the net wider. ‘Swan Song’ incorporates more electronic elements, more ideas, more of everything. Each song evolves through its runtime, using a handful of key elements to create a powerful statement, making for a record that is both fascinating yet remains sharply focused. It’s stuffed with ideas, but not overstuffed and that’s what makes it work. At least part of this is due to vocalist Landon Towers, producing the album, acting as the creative driving force as well as dictating its focus; everything ends.

‘Swan Song’ is ambitious and multifaceted, full of unusual compositions and striking songs. Gliding between straight-up pop and experimental post-hardcore it demonstrates everything The Plot In You are capable of and challenges other bands to keep pace. A good album that frequently flirts with greatness, its inspired use of well-controlled sounds makes for a consistent listen. If this isn’t the end of everything, what will their next step be?

IAN KENWORTHY

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