The Swellers

The Light Under Closed Doors

The Swellers thrive on poetic desperation; a kind of underlying sadness and inner tension, deceptively presented within a seemingly sweet pop-punk melody. It’s what fueled the Michigan quartet’s “Rust Belt lullabies” on 2009’s dazzling Ups And Downsizing, and it also drives the band’s latest, The Light Under Closed Doors, their first full-length since an ill-fated major-label dalliance with Fueled By Ramen (producing 2011’s polished, yet underappreciated Good For Me). Now safely back in indie territory, the Swellers sound downright brawny again, and TLUCD seethes with the anguish of a jilted lover, interspersed with the general mid-20s existential angst of songwriting duo/brothers Nick and Jonathan Diener. It’s toothy, catchy and cohesive, from the tight-riffed, broad-smiling panic of opening track “Should” to the clever Midwest metaphors of apex point “Great Lakes State” to the Weezer crunch of weighty closer “Call It A Night,” plus a bona fide potential hit (“Big Hearts”) and even a sonic ode to Alkaline Trio (“Designated Driver”). Paying the bills isn’t ever easy, but struggling rarely sounds this great.

No Sleep

“Great Lakes State”