by / October 12th, 2009 /

The Swell Season: Strict Joy

 3/5 Rating

(Plateau)

Post-Once, post-Oscar, post international merry-go-round, Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova are back doing what they (particularly the Frames frontman) do best, penning effortlessly hummable tunes, even if some of them, like the wonderfully breezy -Feeling The Pull’ have been around for some time.

Opener -Low Rising’ is a mid-paced country-tinged grower that wouldn’t seem out of place on one of Van Morrison’s -70s outings, complete with some gorgeous horns courtesy of Steven Bernstein and Clark Gayton, members of Levon Helm’s band. Other musicians augmenting the sonic palette include various Frames, along with Graham Hopkins on drums, Leonard Cohen’s guitarist Javier Mas and Doveman’s pianist Thomas Bartlett, who together create a rich tapestry of sound which takes the album firmly away from the traditional singer-songwriter pigeon-hole and gives it very much a band feel.

Highlights include the almost whispered confessionals of -In These Arms’ and -Paper Cup’, the insistent and infectious -The Rain’ (surely a future single) and the rolling -I Have Loved You Wrong’. -The Verb’ comes across like the younger, more precocious sibling to The Frames’ -God Bless Mom’, while the near-perfect duet of the piano-led -Two Tongues’ is sure to win the duo more admirers. Less impressive, however, are the MOR-fest of -High Horses’ or the eastern-inflected -Love That Conquers’.

While it occasionally approaches the highs of previous output, and there’s little to offend either the diehard Hansard fanatic or the Oscar-come-lately, State can’t help hankering for less of the lovey-dovey niceness and more of the scorching anger and searing guitar that fuelled the good ship Fitzcarraldo.

Listen: Spotify | Bandcamp | Soundcloud | Youtube

  • Great review – I am just discovering The Frames due to the fact that The Swell Season played a few Frames songs live on the last couple of tours. I posted a review of Strict Joy on my blog too, at http://bit.ly/1HKsW3