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jankyswans - "Summer in Real-Time" album review

So I am writing a new review about a jankyswans album that I got earlier this month. The album is called Summer in Real-Time, but as I am writing this it is the start of fall. Just earlier tonight, two old men fought on live TV, their blood coating thousands of hands, hearts, and minds that will go on to touch screens or write names on paper. This world is not what I expected to find when I was thinking of the future when I was younger. I certainly didn't think Skull Valley would turn into the a very erratic review of jankyswans tapes and other internet miscellenea as my own musick output moves from garage punk to vaporwave. The world is always changing, always moving; one day, you look outside and the grass has turned blue, and there are no birds anymore. Climate change, civil war, voter fraud, pandemic - it's all coming together. It doesn't seem good.

Thankfully, Summer in Real-Time is Good. The album was composed one track per week during the past months of chaos and protest. While I consider David of jankyswans a friend, I did buy the tape. This isn't a paid promotion. I did like the album though, so no surprises there.

The album art shows a sunset over a thin forest. The pink clouds and green sky provide a feel of nostalgic loss with a sense of hope. The rippled clouds remind me of fire, a setting sun on a damaged planet. But the open sky at the top reminds me that there is hope for the future if we take care and participate in the world. Dear readers, please remember that.

"strettchh" opens the album like an opening cutscene or musick from a video game menu. It's poppy, layered, and energetic. Next, "wanderr" slows things down with strands of sound that seem to crest hills of swaying green. The song changes quite a bit as it moves along with flourishes and dark tones. "retrogreyed" has some big sweeping bads as you might find in a neon grid somewhere beyond those fields we know. The basslines have a chunky, slimey sound. Overall it kind of sounds like a factory level or something. "clearing" is another nice track, this time with big dynamics created through a heavier drum sound, floating chimes, and stabs. clearing really evolves as the song continues, much of it changing but enough of the rhythm staying similar enough to not lose the listener. "sixcrystals" is kind of spooky. I like the mystical tone to the instruments, the weird drum sound, and the climbing melodies in the middle of the track. This must be the song you might hear during a revelation about needing to find six McGuffins to save the world. I imagine one of the old-school Final Fantasy games.

Side two starts with the unique "sinkhole". This track sounds a little sad, and it makes me think of the odd situation earlier this year where a bus fell into a huge sinkhole in downtown Pittsburgh. Like that surreal event, this song had me thinking about the strange nature of the world I mentioned earlier. The real world feels like a comic book or movie nowadays. I felt sad. I don't have much to say about "saturnate". It's a very unique song with totally different instrumentation than the other tracks. There is almost a Russian element to the chord progression. Moving along, "envelope" has a wistful, nostalgic feel to it. It reminds me of Earthbound or Undertalewith an additional cinematic element near the end. "bind" continues the Earthbound sound, this time more of the weirder sounds instead of the Sound Stone-esque sounds. It's kind of a rocker, but it has something like a xylophone too. It's also maybe like a quarter of the way into dungeon synth or something (I await the jankyswans dungeon synth record because that would be great). "drifft" is more like classic vaporwave than maybe any other jankyswans track I have heard. It has that detuned bass, but it quickly turns back into the vapory chiptune trademark. I like the little cat and pfone sounds. "summerend" is the end if you didn't buy the album. It's the shortest song at under two minutes, and it very much does sound like the end to something. It's cold and dark, a chilly cave or dungeon that opens into the hero walking into the sunset. This could maybe be in a Mega Man X game. For album buyers. the final track is "numbers station", which, in contrast, is the longest song on the album. It's a spookier, more mechanical song than other songs by the artist with a frog-like synth and vocals akin to the stations mentioned by the title. Is there a message to these numbers like the ones supposedly given to spies over the radio?

I really enjoyed Summer in Real-Time. I do wish there was slightly more variety, and it was a little longer than expected. However, the tracks are very solid, emotionally investing, and layered with sounds to explore over multiple listens. It is a nice snapshot of the strange summer of this year, something that seems like a page from a novelist's hand.

Summer in Real-Time receives a Good.

As a special present, here are some download codes to get this album for free. They are first-come, first-serve and redeemable at https://bandcamp.com/yum.


Skull Valley explores Summer in Real-Time, a vapory chiptune release from Florida's jankyswans.