Album Review: Jim Swim — ‘New Tattoo’ EP

Jim Swim is not new to the Iowa hip-hop scene. He performs all over the state, but during the day he teaches middle school kids about the importance of learning grammar and proper English. It is only natural he would take his verbal skills to the microphone.

His latest release, New Tattoo, features psychedelic rap sounds that can be jammed in the car or on the dancefloor. The second track, “What’s the Plan?”, dives into the mutual understanding needed for a relationship to succeed. Going with the flow and letting your guard down is a risk, but it can have amazing results. The lyrics in the chorus—“It’s alright; that’s life”—speak to the ups and downs of getting to know a person you like. Being vulnerable and open can cut down on communication problems down the road.

The last track, “Big Love,” presents those wild summertime feelings that come with a summer fling. The lyrics reflect on how selfish one can be when learning about their companion’s likes and dislikes. It also speaks on the importance of partnership, connection and patience. To want love with no limits requires a lot of responsibility on both parts. It is almost better to aspire to what big love can be instead of actually working towards it.

The voices of Ana Lopez and Sarah Bozaan weave throughout, as a woman opening herself up to him over the course of the project. You hear them at the beginnings, middles and endings of different songs. I believe keeping the woman anonymous is what makes her so relatable. (It is also nice to hear another person narrating the album while Jim Swim’s voice is focused through the music.) The album art, designed by Kenzie Reyelle, seems to be one woman reflected into two. Symbols of a knife through a flower at the crown of her head, a snake and an eye are layered over the woman.

“I have been getting some really good advice and been having a lot of conversations with a lot of the women in my life,” Jim Swim said in an interview. “A couple of my friends and my girlfriend. I wanted to have a thread of those conversations.” It was important for him to create a vibe containing layers of happiness and hope, he said.

The New Tattoo EP was released by Birdhouse Recordings and produced by Jim Swim’s long-time musical partner, Nick Jenkins, also known as Blookah, who he has shared inspirations with for years.

“We really were in the thick of the album production after I got vaccinated and were looking at the summer like, ‘Man, people are going to feel a lot of relief.’ I wanted to make them dance,” he said.

This five-song EP is a perfect addition to his catalog.

This article was originally published in Little Village issue 299.

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