Whether we like it or not, everything loses its luster. That’s blunt, I know, but it’s common knowledge things run their course. We get preoccupied with the next new thing and take off towards it, often too caught up chasing that high to think about what we’re leaving behind.
On the other hand, Philadelphia’s Swim Camp — the project of singer-songwriter Tom Morris — has made it a prerogative to excavate everything we abandon on Steel Country, the band’s latest album, out today via the local label Julia’s War (curated by Douglas Dulgarian of They Are Gutting a Body of Water). The sixteen alt-country-tinged tracks are a critical analysis of the glory days, an in-depth study of the art of decay.
As his cats clambered into the Zoom frame, Morris reflected on the patchwork of personal anecdotes, scenes of deteriorating infrastructure, and the cast of Alex G-esque characters that compose Steel Country. A product of stillness and seclusion, he spent five days in December of 2021 at a log cabin in the Poconos where he recorded the bulk of the record.
Despite hauling all of his instruments and recording gear into what was essentially the middle of nowhere, Morris still found himself ruminating on the symbols of urban decay scattered around his neighborhood in Kensington: dilapidated buildings, neglected streets. He tried to envision its hey day and the people who used to live there. The lives they used to lead. Who they used to be.
These long-vacant structures began to appear to Morris as a form of “living history,” a testament to what once was. Walking his usual route one day, Morris was approached by a man he’d pass by all the time smoking on the stoop. A long-time resident, he started reminiscing about the “good old days” when Kensington was a hot spot when the factories were bustling, and people would pack into the stores along the main drag.
“He has this real pride for Kennsignton but there’s also a sadness about what it’s not anymore,” says Morris. “That overall idea applies to life.”