Sunday, June 14, 2009

Sorry, Mr. Swift...

The Atlantic Ocean
Richard Swift

Back in 2007, I read a lot about Richard Swift. He'd just released Dressed Up for the Letdown, a great little record. It was inventive, catchy, original, and followed the well-observed rules of song craft, and I mean the Tin Pan Alley and Brill Building kind, not this new-fangled Rock n' Roll the kids have been listening to. He flirted with mainstream success. He may have even touched it, but I don't think so... I seem to be the only person I've encountered since 2007 who's appreciated the perfection of "Kisses for the Misses," and that's a damn shame.

At any rate, he retreated from the almost limelight, released an odd album of instrumentals last year, and now returns with his newest effort proper, The Atlantic Ocean. Obscurity, it would seem, works for some people, particularly when it's the willful sort. Not that he wouldn't have been okay with fame, but you can hear the creative freedoms his anonymity brings him. This album builds on the forms of Dressed Up for the Letdown, but adds, well, funny noises. The songs are frosted with synth sounds, and it's spectacular. They would not have happened if Richard Swift were becoming a household name, no chance. And they are wondrous things. The opening moments of the title track are my favourite audiophilic indulgence for the year, and the entire album follows suit. There are songs that risk becoming irritating, but something about the way this most talented of individuals crafts songs keeps that from happening. I still don't understand why he isn't famous, but I'm grateful for it, and I hope that doesn't change any time soon.

Clearly a master craftsman who has learnt well the structures and works of Harry Nilsson and Macca, the only downside here is that most of it does not stay firmly in your head, fading from memory almost as quickly as it does from the ears. There is an unquestionably great, properly great album somewhere in this man, and I think it's going to come soon. In the meantime, I'll settle for this.


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