Review: Former Faces’ "Swimming in Circles" EP

With the first meandering, atmospheric guitar pattern in Swimming in Circles’ first song, “Back up a Minute,” Former Faces announces their influences: The War on Drugs is in there, as is, of course, its former member Kurt Vile (when it comes to guitar style, there’s little difference between the two), but then when Former Faces founder Ryan Parmenter starts singing, you hear a bit of Broken Social Scenes’ Kevin Drew in him—less eye-rolling and gritty than Kurt Vile and more intimate.

The backing vocals increase the stakes: this song is highly personal, introspective, and sounds like sitting outside on a cold night, a bit buzzed, thinking about something that has been bothering you for years. 

The second track of the five song EP introduces another influence: Tame Impala. “the Runaround” opens with synth and electronic effects and drums, and the song probably could have appeared on Currents without anyone noticing it wasn’t Kevin Parker singing—that is, until the chorus. Parker tends to build to louder, more falsetto-laden choruses than Parmenter does—instead we have a song that’s chilled out from beginning to end. Which is a good thing if you’re in the right setting or frame of mind.

“Weekend Mountain Man” is less easy to pin down, exhibiting a confluence of styles and probably the catchiest chorus of the EP (which, not surprisingly, centers around the title phrase).

The EP closer, “Idle Hands,” is probably the dreamiest-sounding, and also comes off as the most romantic—this is a song about that period of falling in love when everything seems to shimmer, it’s spring, and the window is open on a Sunday morning—until the bridge takes the song in a more mysterious direction, introducing a bit of dissonance a la OK Computer-era Radiohead. 

It’s a strong way to end the EP, which, with each subsequent track, showcases Former Faces’ ability to incorporate a wide variety of styles while still sounding consistently like themselves.

L.M. Alder is in the band The Deafening Colors.