Album: Annihilation Signals by Lee Switzer-Woolf

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Lee Switzer-Woolf’s latest album release is a stunning display of conflicting imagery. Satellite-era synths meet warm acoustics, robotic beats meet delicate musical soundscapes, and abrasive atmospheres, wrapped around tentative and thoughtful lyrical ideas, all while remaining truly and utterly cohesive, uniform, and rewarding in sound and in personality. It’s an album that, at 43 minutes long, never once felt boring, and never stopped giving new ideas, until the last minute.

Lee Switzer-Woolf is a Reading-based singer and songwriter, who on his second full-length release embraces a direction that’s decidedly different from the one on his first. In a short time span, Lee follows the success of his mostly skeletal and serene folk debut of 2022’s ‘Scientific Automatic Palmistry’ with the similarly beautiful and serene ‘Annihilation Signals’, this time laced all around with tasteful electronica that highlights one of the album’s core visual themes, that being satellites and comets crashing back to earth, and the existential dread that provokes. The album also explores the parallels between the paranoias of previous decades and those of our current times. 

The album’s healthy, 13-song runtime is consistently brilliant, with elements forming the core listening experience including robotic, light, electronic beats, shimmery, arpeggiated electric rhythm guitars, fuzzed-out and harsh guitars, and Lee Switzer-Woolf’s intimate lyricisms and soulful deliveries. Starting with ‘The Falling Shrapnel Of a Satellite’, the song offers an amazing introduction to the sound of this record, with satellite-age synths and a jittering, start/stop beat that sounds robotic and stiff, but coupled with the humaneness and organic sound of Lee’s voice, the warmth of the overdriven rhythm guitar, and the thought-provoking lyrics, we get a result that’s finely balanced between tense anxiety and serene contemplation. ‘Yucutàn’ introduced another core sonic element of the album, and that is densely fuzzed guitars, bridging the gap between the programmed beats, and the warmly arpeggiated guitars. The timbres of ‘Yucatàn’ vary widely from light and nimble, to abrasive and hypnotic. ‘I Only Talk To God When I Think I’m Dying’ is a mid-album masterpiece. With a potent, melancholic composition, and poignant lyrics, this song introduces us to a color of Lee Switzer-Woolf that’s dark, depressed, and intimate. With its restrained arrangement of guitar and vocals, this piece is a standout. 

From the depressive serenity of ‘I Only Talk To God…’ to the bustling ‘Whistling Like the Bomb’, in a 1-2 move that displays the impressive range of Lee’s songwriting prowess. This song’s hypnotizing, repetitive percussion and the crisp, spoken word prose, along with a curious sounding composition, are wonderfully pit against abrasive choruses with densely fuzzed guitars and a boomier kick drum, building an atmosphere that summons Nick Cave’s poetic storytelling. ‘I Think I Might Be Whatever This Isn’t’, featuring the backing vocals of Kimberly Switzer-Woolf, Lee’s wife and bandmate, is a relatively conventional offering. With a slow tempo, the pounding, electronic beat, fuzzy guitar, and a lead guitar break that sounds rich and full, all work to build a massive wall of sound that’s as rewarding as it is hard-hitting. A clear highlight of the second half of the album is the haunting ‘Sugar-Stained Blood’. With its tense composition that brings up a sense of a stalking danger, the song’s hectic and busy beats induce a sense of motion that further highlights the song’s chase-like feeling. The wall of sound continues with thickly-fuzzed guitars that amplify the lyrics’ giving into what seems to be the corruption of mind and body. ‘Kathy In The Seventy’ features no fuzz, instead, 2 guitars and a piano arrangement lead the curious sound with delicacy and a melancholic gentleness. With more hypnotic, repetitive beats, and contemplative lyrics, telling a story from the past in a way that made me sense the spirit of The National in the air. 

There is no going around the fact that Lee Switzer-Woolf’s ‘Annihilation Signals’ is a sublime album. With its lush detailings, focused and coherent direction, terrific and heartfelt songwriting, and fantastic production, the album is an extremely rewarding one with multiple highlights that sound varied and equally exciting and beautiful. The lyrics are thoughtful and Lee’s voice is consistently warm and reassuring, no matter how melancholic or disconcerting the words he’s saying are, for a final product that’s sweet, gentle, colorful, and with a wide palette of musical and melodic bliss.