FTHRSN’s (pronounced “father son”) new record is absolutely fantastic. “Middle School Swag” is one of the best albums I’ve heard since doing this blog. I’ve been listening to its breezily beautiful harmonics all night. It’s an album about being alone, being in your own head, being young, searching for yourself, and ultimately finding love. I can hear all kinds of antecedents in the music, like Simply Red, Boy George, Dirty Projectors. But ultimately it exists in its own stylistic, musically dreamy world. There’s a bedroom aesthetic, but there’s also electronic soul, an island easiness, 80s synth-pop, all complementing each other so well under the sharp ear of an artist clearly skilled at finding real emotion underneath it all. The song “Middle School Dance” is one of the showcases of this album, with its intermittent keyboard melodies, warm bass beat, and light but passionate lead vocals about being unable to get someone out of your mind, “And I have one dream / You give me what I need right / And I can’t fall asleep / Until I know you’ll be mine.” There’s a part at the end of the song, labelled by the artist in the lyrics as “some sexy r&b nonsense”, that’s stunning. Right at about the 2:06 mark, the song falls into a groove where everything comes together: pulsating beats, skittering drums, and oscillating falsetto that blends into something so hot it could melt metal. I swear I’ve looped it maybe 50 times tonight just trying to find what makes it so spectacular. My advice for FTHRSN, when playing that song live somewhere in Ann Arbor: carry the closing for 10 minutes or as long as you can. Because when I heard it, I kept wishing the track would never end. Frankly, the album closer, “Over You”, is just as good. It begins with a jittery percussion, like a Thom Yorke solo cut, but about halfway into it, FTHRSN goes nearly acapella, before the music fuses into drum, a high-pitched screech, guitar, and backing vocals. It’s a song about taking the leap, and giving yourself over to another person completely. Music simply doesn’t get better. You can follow FTHRSN at facebook, twitter, and bandcamp. Click here to read an archived Their Bated Breath post about FTHRSN. — David D. Robbins Jr.