Rare bright spot in the universe: Swearin' is reuniting. The DIY rock crew, helmed by scene fixtures Allison Crutchfield and Kyle Gilbride, is important to us, so we assembled a celebratory list of our all-time favorite tracks from their too-short catalog. Honestly every Swearin' song is good — but these are, in our opinion, the 6 very best ones.
The best-loved Swearin’ song is probably “Kenosha,” and for good reason; it’s a pop-punk diss track that more or less perfects the form. It’s about a doomed friendship — the kind that’ll probably feel familiar to anyone who’s ever been 23 years old, like Allison was when Swearin’ came out in 2012. Her carefully phrased put-downs are genuinely scathing, even when they’re half-buried in the song’s charming, disheveled mix.
But really it’s the instantly singable chorus that has made “Kenosha” an unshakeable artifact to a whole generation of DIY rock enthusiasts: “I hope you like Kenosha so much you stay there.” The titular Wisconsin city, less a place than a concept, becomes a stand-in for any number of middle-of-nowhere American outposts — the sorts of unremarkable places that rock songs like these have always condemned and celebrated in equal measure. —PATRICK D. MCDERMOTT
"Dust in the Gold Sack"
When Surfing Strange came out, I’d dedicate nights to listening to it straight through. I was a mess at the time — people will tell you 23 is the worst year, and it’s true. There I was in 2013, staying up till the wee hours of the night, staring at the cracks in the ceiling of my shitty apartment, feeling like I’d be in that rut forever. The album, but especially “Dust in the Gold Sack,” made me feel like it was almost a rite of passage to be a lost and fucked-up kid in her 20s.
Now, whenever I’m between Bedford and Nostrand, Allison Crutchfield’s crunchy-sweet voice floats into my head: “Back and forth / down Bedford and Nostrand / You set things in motion / While I drive you home,” she sings over an acoustic guitar line. It’s a small respite from the rest of the song’s electric cyclone. —LEAH MANDEL
“Empty Head,” a bare-bones ballad off Swearin’, is the aural equivalent of a sleepless summer night. Kyle sings lead, his anxious poetry highlighting a heartbreakingly relatable human ritual: the way that we tend to romanticize the past, even when we know it’s unhealthy. “It’s not like anything was better then,” he sings, defeated-sounding. The production, all bleary chords and empty space, helps emulate the sensation of disjointed memories bouncing around a tired mind. It’s a quieter sort of anthem than Swearin’ is known for, but it’ll still worm its way into your heart. —PATRICK
"What a Dump"
“Being angry is real important,” Allison sings on the demo-like title track of Swearin’s very first release. Anger’s a crucial component of Swearin’ — the way Allison wields her everyday frustration with such powerful casualness. On “What a Dump,” she sounds a little fuzzy and faraway, as if she's emoting from behind a wall of cigarette smoke in a dusty, dilapidated home studio. Alongside a staticky cloud of guitar and reverb, she bemoans her sister’s criticisms of her attitude: “Could you blame me? / Living in this shitty stuck-up city.” That's the unfussy, ticked-off Swearin' spirit I fell in love with. —LEAH
When I listen to Surfing Strange now, I get flashbacks to the times when I was the “empty” and “maladjusted mess” Kyle sings about on “Watered Down,” which immediately follows “Dust in the Gold Sack.” Weirdly, the song makes me nostalgic for bad times, when music was the only thing that made me feel good. It’s a pocket of swelling melancholy, hinged on the balance between Kyle’s gravelly whine; the stormy, oscillating bass; and those absolutely thrilling pop chords. It coils and uncoils around your heart, and will give me the feels until the day I die. —LEAH
“Just” has all the makings of a classic twee-punk love song — a killer hook, visceral lyrics about sticky skin and streetlights, a prominently featured “woah-oh-oh-oh.” But Kyle’s second-act bridge muddies an otherwise romantic narrative. “Overslept and I’m alone a lot,” he sings, the intrusion exposing the kind of underlying existential unease that many of the best Swearin’ songs are secretly hinged on. This one took on new meaning after Kyle and Allison, who dated for four and a half years, split up; she even interpolated the chorus — “I just want you to love me” — at a recent live solo show, while performing songs from what she herself has called a breakup record. But even free from real-life context, “Just” is sweet, sad, and sloppy — exactly like the kind of relationship that, whether it works out or not, changes your life forever. —PATRICK