Ian Sweet (real name Jilian Medford of Los Angeles) produces a lo-fi indie-rock sound that could acutely score a mid-2000s Michael Cera film, but still feels postmodern. Medford’s melancholic but defiant lyricism, coupled with simple and elegant guitar progressions, provides for the addicting kind of pop to sway awkwardly to.
Her voice is a true croon. It’s really a beautiful instrument, moving languidly along in extended waves occasionally crashing upwards with sharp emotional punctuations. Most of the tracks are layered with dreamy but tidy synth actions and, in a genre that has been burgeoning with a lot of quality options as of late, the combination truthfully retains at least some level of singularity and otherness.Medford has a sizable portfolio of work already, releasing a new album approximately every two years since 2016, and she still represents one of the most exciting new indie voices. Although good luck has boxed her into that genre, she moves from indie rock, to pop, to shoegaze—not just album to album, but track to track, fluid and elusive but also coherent.
Her newest LP, “Sucker,” was released last week and represents a lyrical maturation into more sensitive topics with candor. Medford had begun planning “Sucker” while still in L.A. but vacated the West Coast for Brooklyn in late 2022. She ended up sequestering herself at the Outlier Inn, a studio on a farm in upstate New York, to write and record the album in full. Themes of transformation and reflection are woven throughout the album, fueled by the lifelong Angeleno’s relocation. For example, in “Smoking Again” she laments self-destructive behaviors while also refusing to punish herself for them, engaging in a sort of acknowledgment of her own moral inventory without pinning any scarlet letters. In “Emergency Contact,” Medford documents her pandemic breakup, and you can’t help but connect some dots knowing she left L.A. shortly thereafter to record “Sucker.”
Medford’s lyricism is rich but also easy to follow. From Ian Sweet’s most recent EP, “Show Me How You Disappear” (2021), we have “Sword,” arguably the best song and by far the most popular. The track begins with some delightfully out-of-place and piercing… flute notes? You’ll have to listen, but it works exceptionally well and fits the title and lyrics sublimely:
How do I start to feel
Less like a deadly weapon
After you made me believe
I have the sharpest edges
I’d dull them down for you
If you wanted me to
My body is a sword
It gets sharper when it gets ignored
Ian Sweet plays at the Empty Bottle, 1035 North Western on November 14, 9pm. Tickets $10 here.