In today’s age, technology has flooded our lives with content. Caught in the mire are modern musicians who champion an art form more widely distributed than any other throughout human history. And we, more often than not, overlook the music created by unfamiliar faces because it’s challenging. We’d rather have an easy listen, a known quantity to skim through while we think about something else.
Hearing is easy, but listening is difficult. Welcome to “Why We Like It,” where we rebuke the trends in favor of thoughtful analysis and underknown sounds.
How We Found It
Strange things are afoot in our SubmitHub inbox! No stranger than usual, but the tunes keep coming, and few have been as memorable as Max Swan’s “Shackles.” A Philly-born jazz enthusiast, Max is a classically trained saxophonist, though his musical interests have since seen him take on the roles of vocalist and producer. All this is to say, Max knows music, and on “Shackles,” he synthesizes his singular experience into a sweeping pop-R&B anthem.
Why We Like It
On “Shackles,” Max Swan moves in sweeping synths and horn bursts.
A heavy slice of maximalist R&B, Swan’s newest single pulls no punches, heavy beats paving the way for wailing saxophones and vamping keys. His lyrics plunge the depths of the past, waxing on the titular “shackles” of the past that hold tight about his wrists. There’s a power to the patient precision of his words — “my pain, my tragedy, the man I used to be / these shackles fit my wrist, still so perfectly,” is a taut opener, and, “if they wasn’t so tight, I think they’d be okay / but I’m not alright, though I wonder every day,” segues perfectly to a beautiful chorus. The strength he projects is so confident, it feels as though the ornate instrumental has been carved about these bars.
There’s beauty in the might of “Shackles,” both musical and thematic. Constant glances in the rear view fog the windshield, the future less assured than ever, but there’s something in Max’s song that suggests closure. It might be the soaring saxophone, or maybe the propulsive beats, but his want to move forward feels realized as he admits a minor development: “I think I’ll be okay, but I’m not alright.”
In slipping the surly bonds of his past, Max Swan has moved closer to knowledge of self — and, if you let “Shackles” take over, you might just feel yourself shift a little closer too.
From Max Swan
Shackles came very early in the process of this album. The verses on here are in a list –– and then summarize –– my pains. My pain, my tragedy, the man I used to be. I am a compulsive complainer-to-self, before I do anything about it. I was mostly in that headspace when I wrote the lyrics here.
Those things, the pains and the tension, are what I used in the shackles metaphor. That unless I can truly let go of the past, and at the same time, let go of looking at my present life as if I’m supposed to be somewhere else, I am unable to move freely, grow and learn. I’ll just be held down here, by things that I do care about, but will hold me down. I hadn’t felt that I was writing about things directly at the time, and this song was a turning point for me.” — Max Swan for CentralSauce
More From Max Swan
That record follows Max’s 2018 debut, The Fisherman, which included singles “Backing Up” and “The Waters.” He’s also recent dropped a loose single, “Legend,” and a 2020 EP, the four-track Gone Away. All this is to say, Max has been hard at work, and he’s only getting better. If you’re wanting to keep up with his evolution, check him out on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.
More to Discover
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