A line delivered late on Diet Cig's debut, Swear I'm Good at This, lays bare the dichotomy in singer-guitarist Alex Luciano's songwriting: "It's hard to be a punk while wearing a skirt." It's one part personal struggle, one part irreverence; truth and self-awareness sitting side by side.
That unique point of view runs throughout the dozen tracks that make up Swear I'm Good at This, a record rooted in DIY indie and punk that nevertheless transcends those worlds thanks to sharp writing and playing from Luciano and drummer Noah Bowman. Luciano delivers these lines with deadpan seriousness, her raw, emotive voice adding weight to singular stories that nevertheless feel universal.
The band's previous single and EP laid the groundwork for the duo's debut, establishing a stripped-down sound anchored by Bowman's drums. Luciano had never played in a band before teaming with Bowman, and the band's early releases were marked by a ramshackle charm.
Here though, the results of steady touring are on full display, as is a deep dive into "honest songwriting," the apotheosis of which is opener "Sixteen." On it, she shrugs off the slut-shaming she endured after sleeping with a boy with the same name, before audibly cueing Bowman's barnstorming entrance.
On the other end of spectrum is "Apricots," a heartfelt ballad that trades wry wit for earnestness. It feels like more of a sketch than a song, just Luciano and her acoustic guitar, but placed midway through the tracklist, it's a calming respite that helps give shape and scope to the album, and a sure sign that these two are working with a level of foresight belied by their lo-fi recordings.
Swear I'm Good at This is an assured debut with a unique voice, one that finds humour in catharsis and catharsis in humour. (Frenchkiss)