By Hannah Morrison
Formerly the solo project of Jilian Medford, the Los Angeles-based trio IAN SWEET brings their A-game on their new record, Shapeshifter. Released September 9th via Hardly Art Records, the album is a versatile garage rock debut reminiscent of artists such as Guerilla Toss and Girlpool. The record’s name is incredibly apt as it shifts throughout, melting between fingerpicked guitars and reverberating dreamscapes of sound. Medford herself sums this up on the album’s title track, singing, “I have a way of loving too many things to take on just one shape.”
The listener’s first impression of the album comes from “Pink Marker,” a slow, soft, and dreamy lo-fi track. Medford’s almost whispering, sweet vocals mix with a twangy, reverberating guitar melody. Yet first impressions can be deceiving, as the record’s energy picks up quickly in the next track, “Slime Time Live.” Medford switches to louder, squealing vocals, and her bandmates Tim Cheney and Damian Scalise bring the tempo up with driving, urgent guitar. The entire album draws from a complex range of sounds and influences, but somehow, IAN SWEET maintains an impressive semblance of command over their own chaos.
Raw, energetic, and constantly evolving, Shapeshifter takes on the heavy theme of anxiety while maintaining a playful, humor-laced exterior. “There is nothing wrong with me but everything is wrong with me,” Medford wails repetitively near the end of the standout track “Cactus Couch.” It’s this kind of contradiction and self-doubt that carries throughout the record as Medford lays herself bare for the listener, delving into her most vulnerable emotions.
Much of the record is based on the insecurity and loneliness that sprung from an experience in a one-sided relationship, as Medford explains via Stereogum.
“I always give up parts of myself to other people. When you love someone, you want them to be comfortable. While I was writing the album, I was in a really unhealthy relationship, and I suppressed it so much that I became someone else. I was taking on these different personalities because I couldn’t focus on what was going on in my life. I wasn’t feeling secure or ready to sit down and process things in a healthy way, so I molded myself into all of these things that were not me.”
The album dives into feelings of intense anxiety and the difficulty of finding one’s place in the world, while maintaining levity and self-deprecating humor. Medford’s ability to stay lighthearted about her emotional struggles makes IAN SWEET’s new record a powerful, relatable, and highly listenable statement on retaking control of yourself.
IAN SWEET’s Shapeshifter is emotionally intense, musically diverse and Radio 1190’s CD of the Month for October.