If you’re looking for new music for those cloudy rainy days or late-night listening sessions, Elephant’s debut album Sky Swimming is meant for you. Amelia Rivas and Christian Pinchbeck’s first endeavor together flows remarkably well, creating an enchanting ebb and flow. Rivas’ vocals carry many of the tracks and are an amazing combination of ethereal, forceful, and fragile depending on the song. Sky Swimming is reminiscent of Phantogram’s nighttime musical style, creating an album full of slow-paced, goose-bump-inducing tracks with the occasional faster tempo pieces.
Elephant starts off its debut album at a relatively breakneck pace with “Assembly.” Sky Swimming’s first song is easily one of the highest tempo and lightest tracks on the album. “Assembly” uses a nice beat that is easy to bop to, as well as a funky synth to bridge parts of the song together. Rivas’ “oohs” and “ahs” are used as background noise and make the track an airy and fun start to the album. “Skyscraper” follows as a slower-paced version of assembly. Following the track’s name, instruments are routinely used to create a feeling of elevation and ascendance. Both the ticky-tacky beat that kicks in during the chorus and the noise of rushing air generate a feeling similar to riding the elevator up to the top of a skyscraper.
Both “Allured” and “Ants” are prime examples of Elephant’s ability to produce lo-fi, mesmerizing songs, perfect for listening to in the background. “Allured” capitalizes on its simplistic start, using a piano and Rivas’ voice alone to create a relaxing experience. When a deep, bass-heavy synth kicks in after the intro, listeners are already soothed by the lullaby qualities of the track. “Ants” begins almost reminiscent of Feist’s “1, 2, 3, 4,” with its playful beat and synth and the inflections of Rivas’ vocals. However, the track is decidedly more layered than Feist’s hit and continues to build as the song progresses. “Allured” and “Ants” are both songs that can go by before you even realize they’ve started, but each time you realize that you immensely enjoyed listening to a song that you barely remember.
“Elusive Youth” is Sky Swimming’s sole decidedly upbeat pop venture. The track is characterized by its high-pitched synth instrumentals, Rivas’ joyful and carefree vocals, as well as a constant drumbeat that keeps the song moving at a fast but pleasant pace. “Shipwrecked” follows, in stark contrast to the previous track, as an extremely slow and stunning ballad. The vocals carry the song, typical of most ballads, constructing a scene of heartache that nips at one of the most basic fears of a sailor at sea. The latter portion of “Shipwrecked” is a pleasure that gives me chills every time caused by the electronically augmented vocals towards the end of the track.
The second half of Sky Swimming is defined by moderate-to-slow-paced songs that catch listeners’ attention through exquisite lyrics, vocals, or the occasional instrumental moment of genius. “Torn Tongues” and “Come To Me” are both similar songs that rely on lyrical mastery and Rivas’ ability to turn even mundane lines into masterful pieces of music. In particular, “Come To Me” showcases Elephant’s ability to build up a song around captivating, effortless vocals, which are perfected by subtle and well-used instrumentals.
Perhaps the best song of Elephant’s debut record is its final track, “Shapeshifter.” Sky Swimming’s last song sounds like it is straight out of a James Bond movie. It captures the lo-fi feeling of much of the album and adds a hook that is missing from some of the songs that come before it. Combining slow-paced ballads, shoe gazers, and faster-tempo synth-pop into Sky Swimming is definitely a successful unveiling for Elephant. With Elephant’s trusty, versatile keyboard and Rivas’ voice, Sky Swimming encourages audiophiles to stay up into the wee hours of the night listening to their new favorite band.