Swear and Shake is a pop-folk quartet born out of the songwriting collaborations of Purchase alumni Adam McHeffey and Kari Spieler. Joined by Shaun Savage on bass and Thomas Elefante on drums, the four piece released their debut EP, simply titled "Extended Play," this past Thanksgiving.
The deep croons and careful guitar plucks of Spieler pull the listener into the intro track "Being and Time." Spieler isn't alone for long, as the band quickly jumps in to bring the pace to an inviting gallop. Spieler's melodies soar with memorable simplicity, as do the well-placed background harmonies.
McHeffey takes the reins on "The Promise," a harmonica-backed waltz that is one of the record's liveliest tunes. Held together by the rhythm section as much as it is by McHeffey's unique inflection, the track bounces along with a feel-good energy throughout. Spieler steps out of the spotlight for the track, but her backing vocals drive McHeffey's earnest delivery even further.
The folky "Johnnie" is a diamond among the EP's catchy gems. A simple declaration of honest love, the track finds Spieler singing "Honey, all your bridges burned/Should you find your boots worn/I will patch your soles/If you swear you'll walk with me." Once again, the interweaving vocals of Spieler and McHeffey make a memorable song unforgettable.
"Extended Play" picks back up with "Truckstop Flower," another McHeffey jam. A bright, midtempo rocker, the song highlights the sunny simplicity that complements Spieler's more folk-influenced approach.
The EP concludes with Spieler's "Bones," a somber, stripped down ballad. Backed by organs, subtle percussion work, and harmonies guaranteed to give goosebumps, Swear and Shake do an expert job at bringing the mini record to a dramatic conclusion.
While still in their early 20s, McHeffey and Spieler exude the confidence and quirk of veteran songwriters. The music is warm and accessible, while the lyrics will stay with listeners long after the disc stops spinning. And while the front man and woman could each entertain on their own, Savage and Elefante provide a rhythmic spine that keeps each song standing tall.
For a five-track EP of this quality, perhaps its one flaw is its brevity. Let's hope Swear and Shake extends their play to a full-length next time around.