Ther faces the state on beautiful new single “swimming” - WXPN | Vinyl At Heart

Last Friday, Ther released “swimming,” one of their boldest, most beautiful and expansive songs to date.

Heather Jones – West Philadelphia-based singer/songwriter and engineer at So Big Auditory – leads the adventurous pop project, and describes Ther like “the breaking of the world-cocoon.” Their Bandcamp releases date back to 2015, and draw lines from introverted emo to tender and exposed acoustic duets, welcoming all the noises in between.

I love the intimacy of nonultrajoy and split w/ sadurn, but “swimming” feels a bit bigger, and more committed to conventions of pop. Jones’ voice rips through the mix, charged with autotune that’s extra jagged against the dry bed of drum samples and close acoustic guitars. Deft instrumental choices, like synth dyads bouncing through the pre-chorus (“program a drum”), build up an airtight form that honestly sounds fit for a Charli XCX hit. And Jones’ voice itself carries a serious confidence that pushes Ther somewhere new, especially in the song’s triumphant conclusion.

Lyrics about swimming and gratitude might make us mistake the song for an ode to perseverance, but Jones promises, “it’s not just about struggling to find a reason to keep living, but about the conditions created by the state that push us to desperation, to a point no one should ever have to reach. it’s just as much about living in a failed imperial state as it is about anything else.”

They bring back the everyday fears that paralyzed us when the pandemic set in (“did I wash my hands when I first came in? / can I pet my cat?”) and remind me of the American ways we endangered each other long before we shut ourselves inside. The culture of “work first” comes to mind, with the normalization of distance – not the social distancing that keeps us safe, but the enduring sanctioned separation of suffering people from each other, economic and carceral – and the misunderstandings it enforces. While we live here, who can we touch? Who don’t we see around us? How can we learn to see them? How can we touch them, if at all? Jones urges us to care for the few closest ones however we can, remembering so many others need our care we’ll never meet.

“swimming” is streaming online now. Along with Heather Jones, the single features vocals by Veronica Magner, mastering by Elaine Rasnake and a loving painted cover by Pauli Mia. Ther’s last release was two more songs from autumn 2019.

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