The Plot In You – Swan Song
Released: September 17th, 2021
Landon Tewers // vocals, lyrics, programming
Ethan Yoder // bass
Josh Lewis Childress // guitar
Michael Cooper // drums
If Swan Song was indeed The Plot In You’s final album, then it would see the four-piece bowing out on a high, at both their popular and creative peak. Of course, it’s not their last outing – this is a bold era of Plot that’s just getting started. So I don’t even need to put in a quote from frontman and key songwriter, Landon Tewers, about how it’s an album dealing with ends. That thematic framing is so obvious from the title and the forthcoming lyricism put forward: about the end of relationships, friendships, mindsets, and in some cases, actual lives. So it’s quite hopeless in tone. There’s little reprieve or silver-lining from the bleakness found in the dark shade these ten songs cast. Which is the point, to exorcise that personal shit. To describe the albums overall sentiment in just two words: genuine catharsis.
I believe in this so much that I’d start a weird internet cult over it, but there’s barely any other bands that blend pop styles and heavy sounds as effectively as Plot In You do. Lazy comparisons to BMTH or even Amity Affliction will shoot in this album’s direction faster than you can say “first born” but Plot’s signature stamp remains. So if I were to personally rank Plot’s discography, this new album –created closely with Drew Fulk, who really is the fifth member of this band – sits at an easy, respectable second spot above 2015’s Happiness In Self Destruction and below 2018’s hybridised Dispose LP. Like that previous glorious album, this fresh body of work makes the musical content of Plot’s earlier mosh-focused metalcore releases feel so two-dimensional. Their growth as people and as artists has been incredible to witness, marking this new period with a clear identity.
All of which is on confident display with the sublime nature of Swan Song. An album that wields a musical and tonal duality with real care; an album that may take multiple listens to fully “get” the choices made within it. We honestly aren’t looking at some perfect release or an AOTY contender with Plot’s latest release – there’s definitely some songs I enjoy more than others – but what we are looking at is an undeniably solid effort by an adventurous group willing to evolve. Less of a shock to the system as Dispose, this is the next logical but natural continuation of that sound.
‘Letters To A Dead Friend’ begins with the quiet eeriness of a distant school yard set over reversed vocals and modulated synth loops. It’s an interesting sound bed for Landon to croon over, a pace-setter for the album’s various moods and style coalescence of dark-pop, ethereal rock, and aggro metalcore. Down pitched vocals slip in, as does Landon’s gritty pitched screaming that he does so fucking well. A mixture of tonalities, it begins as melodically bright and percussively-driving as Landon ponders what would’ve happened if a friend of his hadn’t died but had instead lived their full life. As a song, it’s the bargaining stage of grief: “Dead wrong or dead right, I should be in the ground a thousand fucking times” he screams in the heavy finale. It’s a what-if scenario, a face-thy-self-examination, and is an incredibly bold first track to subvert expectations. The darker key change to the screams, ominous chugging guitars, and gut-rumbling low-end for its climax is sudden but seamless. When ‘Letters…’ kicks your teeth in at 3:21 for that emotionally dynamic explosion, its powerful.
With ‘Fall Again,’ out of the frying pan shoots Plot’s nu-weird sound with a dry, punchy and glitchy metalcore tune that’s Code Orange adjacent but just at a slower tempo. If you’re one of those people who care about finding THE heaviest song on a record, then this one’s for you. More of a straightforward familiar track, it shows off how characterful Landon’s singing and screaming is. He’s a talented though oddly underrated frontman who can roll with the best in the scene. A somewhat more dissonant, chug-laden second half gives way to a final elated chorus and one hell of a snappy breakdown, where the band’s rhythm section gives it their all. It becomes clear about how this band arrange their songs, how these elements all work in tandem. Synths and electronics fly above, heavy guitar chugs and the smoothed-out, bass-heavy mix anchor to the sides Landon’s towering vocals, while Michael Cooper’s drumming fires straight down the middle. It’s such an effective mix and production methodology, arming to the teeth Plot’s already stellar songwriting.
‘Face Me’ isn’t only one of this record’s best tracks, and not just one of my favourite 2021 tunes, but it’s one of Plot’s finest pieces of music. What could be considered as the ‘Feel Nothing’ of this LP, this track was written about a relationship that’s become deeply fractured by mental illness, the toll it took on the couple, and how there’s a yearning to make it work. (“I don’t wanna be the love you prevail from, I don’t wanna be the waves in your sea” Landon pleads in the second verse.) The immense layering of Landon’s screams over a woman’s repeating sampled mantra; the tracks lurching rhythmic pace during the emotionally harrowing breakdown; the distorted synths adding flair to the measures before hefty downbeats drop; all of that harmonic tension; how the mix pulls back certain elements at just the right times – there’s so much to love about this banger. This is it motherfuckers, peak Plot, featuring everything that makes this band tick.
A big-ass synth pad is the melodic backbone of ‘Too Far Gone’ as Landon and the Plot crew serve up one of the happier, brighter rock songs of their entire career. (Despite the lyrical content maybe being about acknowledging when a relationship has run its course.) If there was ever a song from this band that was primed to tackle the syndicated radio leagues – even with the impassioned pitched screaming in the second verse –it’s this one. Though that’s not its only value, not the only identity it has. It doesn’t feel cheap or forced, but an honest and ambitious rock song for them. When the chunky climax arrives just after the three minute mark, with Plot backed up by a huge millennial whoop, as Landon offers some brutal honesty about his love life – “when I try to love, my failures sink through the seams” – it becomes more than just a “radio” song as I so described a few sentences back.
One of the weaker songs, ‘Paradigm’ is the rowdy “party” number for Plot In You’s fifth LP, and it never goes any deeper than that musically. It’s a fine, if pissed-off sounding rock-metalcore track with some decent riffage and lots of screaming – note that filthy, pitch-rising held scream near the end that’s especially sick –and is just dripping with disdain. It’s a track about the false worship of public figures, to remember to not idolize people, and the potentially toxic parasocial relationships that stem from that. This is Plot trying to remind us that (not all, but most) YouTubers, influencers and content-creators just see their audience as mere numbers. A topic that always makes me cringe a little when the artists themselves don’t understand they possess the same position and power as those they critique in such songs, but on a smaller platform. I also feel like the lyrical messaging about their own fans ensuring they don’t fall into this trap might get lost in translation. So if you ever see the frontman on the street, don’t be weird about it, and definitely don’t call him Daddy Landon.
Starting with a repeating “who do you want to be?” vocal line and a melodic synthesised ostinato, ‘Both To Blame’ is a measured look at a relationship ending. In which both parties weren’t faultless in things falling apart. There’s a lot of mature sentiments bundled up in this song, never falling into a desperate ‘please take me back’ approach. It’s Landon clearing the air for his ex-partner, so that the onus isn’t placed solely on them, admitting he was just as guilty in things turning sour. My favourite song off The Weeknd’s last album was ‘Hardest To Love’ for this same reason: old mate Abel Makkonen Tesfaye admitting his own faults after the fact, showing empathy to his ex. That takes guts, and it’s refreshing to hear that from Plot. Rather than the self-obsessed, personal myopia that’s plagued so much alt, emo, pop-punk and metalcore music over the last 15 years.
‘Too Heavy,’ funnily enough, really isn’t that heavy. Shock horror! Cue up the ironic comments right now, boys. A slower, uplifting and atmosphere-heavy piece that’s all about that sweet build-up, this is the lighter side of Plot In You blooming into full view at first. The high-pitched notes and sweet vocal runs that Landon dishes out are charming. The atmospheric running behind the track allows Plot to knuckle down and push the song towards its most logical and satisfying pay-off. Take for instance, the slick section layering at the end, as the verses overlap with the chorus hooks and some really pained screams, with all of the instrumentation firing off. It’s all very messy, but that seems to be by design: that chaos and anxiety when shit gets way too heavy in our lives. Even with the glacial pacing of the song, it’s a real album highlight.
Evoking their older heavier works, we have ‘Enemy’, making its weight felt with an ethereal vocal sample and a ringing bass, with subtle string noises left in for added punch. All before chugging guitars that sound thicker than a full bucket of molasses and face-smacking drums touch down with force. One little trick that Swan Song loves is using a sole vocal track from Landon hang in the air before things return bigger and harder than ever. They do this on ‘Face Me’ and they do it here again to great effect, even if this has my least favourite chorus off the album. The song’s hellish metalcore passage, with these fucked up sounding guitars and the intense voice-breaking screams, is face-melting stuff. The Plot In You, or rather Landon, make such interesting choices with their instrument voicing and section transitions, and Drew Fulk’s production is key to this wider vision.
Another honest and manic, older-sounding Plot track arrives in the form of the volatile and riff-heavy ‘Whole Without Me’. It’s a happy-medium of their electronic pop present and heavier metalcore past, like a Dispose cut was remixed with a Could You Watch Your Children Burn track. Even with an unevenly paced breakdown, basic snare roll build-up, and a slightly anti-climactic pay-off (for me), it still goes hard. A testament to this record’s quality: when it slacks, it’s still better than most of their contemporaries output. This track is Landon “de-masking” himself and his problems, showing the man he is. It ain’t the album’s greatest moment by any stretch of the mind, but it’s a seriously vulnerable moment for the frontman and that doesn’t go unnoticed. The ticking, nursery-rhyme pitched-percussion of ‘Freed’ starts one of Plot’s strangest but boldest compositions yet. With distorted hi-fi synth rumbles, evocative strings, some trance electronica, and aggressively picked industrial chugs, the band turn 4D. (While pretty good, it’s honestly not as strong an album finisher as ‘Disposable Fix’ was, or even the titular finale from their 2015 LP.) A grim ending with various moving parts, it’s a dark place to end the record on. What with Landon admitting that he goes to sleep “with no intention to wake” and also addressing issues with his mother, recalling what he first shared with the world about her on ‘Glad You’re Gone’ from 2013.
In this closing moment, though, Landon is “freed” from all of that negative bullshit. Like a message in a bottle hurled into the sea or, a paper of confessions burnt up by the fire, this was a purge. Thankfully, The Plot In You haven’t purged their passion or creativity. On Swan Song, it’s over-flowing.
The Plot In You – Swan Song tracklisting:
- Letters To A Dead Friend
- Fall Again
- Face Me
- Too Far Gone
- Both To Blame
- Too Heavy
- Whole Without Me