Sweet Whirl casts a calm, bittersweet vibe during tough times on How Much Works | Music Review | Chicago Reader

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Sweet Whirl casts a calm, bittersweet vibe during tough times on How Much Works

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With all the unrest and pain in the U.S. right now, it can feel strange or wrong to listen to an album of calm, airy songs that recall sunnier days, even if those days were sometimes bittersweet. But in a way it’s just like massaging an extremely tense muscle: if you can keep leaning into the bad feeling, you’ll be rewarded with some relief. In that respect, How Much Works, the new album by veteran Melbourne singer-songwriter Ester Edquist, aka Sweet Whirl, feels a bit like a balm—despite the melancholy mixed into its warm, easygoing songs. Edquist plays the bulk of the instruments on the album herself (Casey Hartnett contributes guitar and Therevox synth, while Monty Hartnett adds drums), and she creates a variety of moods that recalls classic songwriters such as Carole King and Joni Mitchell, albeit with a minimalist flavor indebted to contemporary bedroom recordings and low-key shows in DIY spaces. The twists and turns can be delightful: opening track “Sweetness” combines 70s FM quirkiness with a sleek, jazzy melody, and the following song, “Weirdo,” captures a country-tinged vibe just as convincingly. The album’s most poignant track might be the wistful, atmospheric “Something I Do,” where Edquist sings about loving someone but not being willing to relinquish her autonomy for a conventional relationship; sometimes it's necessary to break our own hearts in order to fulfill our dreams.   v

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