The Swell Season, Strict Joy

The new album from the Once duo finds them treading familiar ground.

Two years ago,

the Swell Season, consisting of

folksy Irish rocker

Glen

Hansard

and classical Czech

songstress

Markéta

Irglová

,

burst into living rooms

around the world

with the surprise indie musical Once.

The film

told the story of two struggling musicians finding each other

on Grafton Street in Dublin

and

forming a special bond where they play music together and help each other work through their own relational issues

. The

music of Once

was

hailed
by many, as the duo even won an Academy Award for Best Original Song
for the film’s undeniably beautiful centerpiece, “Falling Slowly”.

The year before, the couple met and formed both a romantic and musical relationship before

taking on

the moniker The Swell Season and releasing

their

2006 self-titled debut,

which included many of the songs that would soon be featured in Once.

Now, while no longer a couple,

the two have become an

established musical

act

and are

releasing their sophomore effort, Strict Joy

. Ju

st like their hit film and

debut album, Strict Joy

covers the

emotional extremes

of being in love, and

seeking reconciliation

from

a broken relationship.

While the album covers both extremes of love, the blissful joy and the unbearable sorrow, Strict Joy

does err on the side of sorrow.

“High Horses” finds the two coming to grips that their relationsh

ip is at the point of no return while

the

song’s composition signals

their hel

pless freefall. “The Verb” uses

its restless rhythm to signal

Hansard’s

paranoia from a relationship gone sour, and “Two Tongues”

features

the awkwardly worded

statement

, “

You’re impossible to really read

when you’re talking

with two tongues in your mouth.

Even through the turmoil

,

there does seem to be a hint of brighter future. The slow jam opener,

“Low Rising” finds

Hansard

wearing his heart on his sleeve singing poignantly of the need to reconcile from

the

crashing waves

from their relational past

.

Hansard

speaks to his love on his shortcomings in “The Rain” and looks to the
future as the song shifts from minor to major as the rhythm picks up
pace and strings crescendo to the song’s blissful peak.

While

it

has

a wonderful sense of fluidity and consistency, Strict Joy

begins to sound like a broken record as lyrically

it is no different than what

Hansard

has written in the past, as so much of his songs find him wanting to mend what has been broken.

These emotional redundancies cause the album to really bog down towards the end.

That’s why songs that err on the

sunny side of love

serve as such a welcome change, as “Feeling the Pull”

, “

In These Arms

”, and “Love That Conquers”

pull

you away to a

better

place

. “Feeling the Pull” swings with the spirit of

Hansard’s

Irish musical forefather, Van Morrison, as the jazzy percussion an

d swiftly strummed guitar sweep you off

your feet. “In These Arms” finds

Hansard

questioning whether to sacrifice his rambling ways f

or what appears to be true love,

with

Irglová

joining him with the gentle and brooding chorus. “Love That Conquers”
serves as the album’s sweetest delight, as the two sing softly together
over a rustling autumnal

backdrop.

Irglová

not only provides the gentle

,

nocturnal

harmonies but shines bright as

day when

she sings lead on “Fantasy Man” and “I Have Loved You Wrong”. “Fantasy Man” is a mystical lullaby

about

the perfect

guy she just can’t seem to find,

and “I Have Loved You Wrong” is a simply sublime stripped-down confessional that is made all the more endearing

and honest

with

Irglová

’s

Czech accent.

While lyrically the album does get a bit stale, musically, Strict Joy

boasts

top notch production

from Peter

Katis

(who has also worked with the likes of the National and Interpol), memorable melodies accented by

beautiful harmonies, and wel

l-

instituted instrumentation

from several other musicians including some members from

the

Frames

. Still,

besides the two songs sung by

Irglov

á

(“Fantasy Man” and “I Have Loved You Wrong”) and the whimsical “Love That Conquers”, The Swell Season

brings nothing

on their new album that

their folk contemporaries

such as Ray

Lamontagne

or Damien Rice

can’t do as well if not better. While Strict Joy

does bring a smile or two

, there’

s good reason to keep your joy restrained.

0 Comments

Please log in or register to review