Blue October – Sway

written by: August 12, 2013
Album-art-for-Sway-by-Blue-October Release Date: August 20, 2013


On August 20, Blue October will release its seventh studio album, Sway. The record is a step in the right direction from its previous release, Any Man in America, but more of a stumble for fans of the band’s old music.

The quintet is known for making sad, angry, and inspirational songs written by lead singer Justin Furstenfeld. Although Sway follows suit in that sound, it brings more positivity and variety than the group’s previous title, which focused on Furstenfeld’s struggle through another divorce and his fight for custody of his daughter.

On the surface, Sway sounds clean and smooth around the edges, but the core of the music does not feel original, and doesn’t even compare to the group’s best work. The instrumentals are not incredibly impressive at any point and the lyrics don’t feel fresh. Blue October certainly isn’t breaking any ground with this record.

But, Sway is not a bad effort, to say the least. Furstenfeld’s vocals are smooth, standing out in the climaxes of “Angels in Everything” and “Fear,” and member Ryan Delahoussaye’s violin work is always a great touch, but even he doesn’t stand out enough to redeem the record.

“Breathe, It’s Over” beautifully opens Sway with a short, acoustic, ambient track that sums up the feel of the album: calm and inspiring, yet mostly unimpressive.

“Breathe” quickly leads into the title track “Sway,” resembling a calm ’80s tune that doesn’t change much and sometimes misses the mark completely. When Furstenfeld whispers, “Come on, dance with me,” it just feels uncomfortable.

Most of this record stays in a medium-slow speed and power, excluding rock anthems “Hard Candy” and “Put It In.” These two back-to-back tracks only throw the album off with an uncomfortable heavy sound that feels completely unnatural in the context of the album.

“Light You Up” features electronic instrumentals and feels like a cut from Any Man in America, which isn’t refreshing. It does, however, flow into a nice, loud bridge, an element that is used well throughout Sway.

The interesting vocals and fun drums in the chorus to “Things We Do At Night” are a fresh point in the album, but this track also has its share of cliché, off-putting moments. Furstenfeld repeats parts of the verse, whispering, “Wave goodbye,” and, “Let me show you how much you mean to me,” among other strange phrases holding back one of the standout songs on Sway.

“Things We Do At Night” is a prime example of how this album excels in catchy choruses but falls short on the verses; it’s almost as if Blue October is simply filling in the time between each chorus.

The lyrics are not as impactful as usual, either. In the past, the band’s lyrics were thought provoking and often quotable, but on Sway, they lack imagination.

The final two tracks, “Not Broken Anymore” and the string instrumental track “To Be,” round out the album beautifully. “Not Broken Anymore” is a somber, yet inspirational ballad of catchy refrains and emotional tones. It’s one of the only tracks on Sway with lasting value that doesn’t have any off-putting parts.

“To Be” ends the record with an instrumental piece using only strings and one clip of a man giving an inspirational message, while the strings get louder before ending a bit too repetitively. The track clocks in at  3:15, giving it plenty of time to unfold, but it never changes all that much. It’s a peaceful way to end the album, but Blue October would have been better off ending on the high note of “Not Broken Anymore.”

Sway is a definite improvement to the band’s last record and a fairly solid release, but for a fan of Blue October, it lacks the balance of originality, emotion, and energy that one expects.

It’s the little things, like the whispering of cliché phrases, that really stick out in this album and leave an uncomfortable aftertaste. Overall, Sway is an alright album with a few nice, comforting songs, but it just doesn’t come close to the bar Blue October set for itself with the first half of its career.

Blue October – Sway tracklist:

  1. “Breathe, It’s Over”
  2. “Sway”
  3. “Angels In Everything”
  4. “Bleed Out”
  5. “Debris”
  6. “Fear”
  7. “Things We Don’t Know About”
  8. “Hard Candy”
  9. “Put It In”
  10. “Light You Up”
  11. “Things We Do At Night”
  12. “Not Broken Anymore”
  13. “To Be”