Music

Richard Swift: The Collection Vol. 1

David Bernard

As a means of introduction, Secretly Canadian has lovingly repackaged two Richard Swift discs into one two-disc volume. You'll be glad you met him.


Richard Swift

The Collection Vol. 1

Label: Secretly Canadian
US Release Date: 2005-09-06
UK Release Date: 2005-09-05
iTunes affiliate
Amazon affiliate
Amazon
iTunes

Richard Swift is preparing to release a new CD next spring, but for those of you who've missed out on his earlier work, Secretly Canadian (his new label) has repacked two older discs, The Novelist and Walking Without Effort, into a two-disc collection entitled The Collection Vol. 1 (though stores are listing it as The Novelist/Walking Without Effort--confused yet?). I can't comment on the double-CD packaging, which I assume is quite handsome, because my review copy is a one-CD promotional version. There are two benefits to my version. The first is that the entire package is only 50 minutes long and fits nicely on one disc, so I don't have to move my lazy ass to the stereo to change CDs after The Novelist ends. The second is that Secretly Canadian includes, printed on the CD, a clever method of deterring sales to used record stores: "You're an asshole if you pay more than $1 for this record. You're a bigger asshole if you try to sell it for more than $1." Touché.

The first disc is a pop cabaret record. Think Rufus Wainwright if his songs were shorter and featured fewer instruments and overdubs. The second disc is closer to the folky guitar pop of Ron Sexsmith or piano balladry of popular '70s singer-songwriters. Each album begins with an instrumental. "Foreward" (It's curiously misspelled, but get it, as in the foreword of the novel written by The Novelist.) sounds equal parts Mardi Gras parade, Disney musical, and nature documentary. Believe it, sister! It's one of the few times I wished that an instrumental opening track were much longer. The subsequent songs continue to match the obscure feel of the opener. Swift's voice is filtered to sound scratchy and old. But then again, everything sounds old. The piano was recorded in a smoky saloon. The organ was bought second hand and is probably damaged by flood water. The guitar was likely miked by a person without a degree in recording engineering. The Novelist comes across as a discovered artifact rather than a contemporary release. Either Swift put a lot of time and effort into creating such a vibe, or he just doesn't know what the hell he's doing in a recording studio.

"Lovely Night" is a winner no matter the sound. It's both catchy and mysterious, and at four and a half minutes, it's positively epic for Swift. "The Novelist" is nothing but piano and accordion. "Looking Back, I Should Have Been Home More" is not only the best song title in the collection, but it also resembles Bacharach and Randy Newman ballads. Swift closes the album by repeating, "Remember when you loved me, babe". Overall it's a diverse disc and demands repeated listens.

Walking Without Effort begins with a more conservative instrumental. It manages to evoke Jon Brion's soundtrack work, implementing acoustic guitar, vibraphone, and keys. The instrumental once again sets the tone for the album. The songs here sound more current (by way of the '70s), and Swift's voice sounds natural. The accompanying instruments are more likely to be horns and drums than the banjos and accordions of the first record. The pleasures of hearing this record are nearly equal to The Novelist. Who can resist a delicious pop song, especially when the arrangements are heavy on the horns and vibes? One thing I didn't miss at all, probably because I was already so interested in the music, is the lack of a traditional drum kit. Some songs seem to have a snare buried in the mix, and others do include a bass drum and cymbals, but most survive wonderfully without the percussion by relying on the acoustic guitar as the beat-keeper.

The somber pace of the songs grates on the attention span during Walking Without Effort. I longed for Swift to pick up the pace at least once or twice. To the listener with attention deficit disorder, I would highly advise not listening to the two discs back to back. Kudos to Secretly Canadian for packaging them on separate CDs.

Swift certainly is an interesting find, and he certainly creates music imagistic and imaginative enough to warrant titles such as The Novelist. This collection is a brief but rewarding introduction to a songwriter willing to take a few risks, even though he's basically just playing the same songs we've already heard before.

7
Music


Books


Film


Recent
Books

How the Template for Modern Combat Journalism Developed

The superbly researched Journalism and the Russo-Japanese War tells readers how Japan pioneered modern techniques of propaganda and censorship in the Russo-Japanese War.

Film

From Horrifying Comedy to Darkly Funny Horror: Bob Clark Films

What if I told you that the director of one of the most heartwarming and beloved Christmas movies of all time is the same director as probably the most terrifying and disturbing yuletide horror films of all time?

Music

The 50 Best Songs of 2007

Journey back 13 years to a stellar year for Rihanna, M.I.A., Arcade Fire, and Kanye West. From hip-hop to indie rock and everywhere in between, PopMatters picks the best 50 songs of 2007.

Music

'Modern' Is the Pinnacle of Post-Comeback Buzzcocks' Records

Presented as part of the new Buzzcocks' box-set, Sell You Everything, Modern showed a band that wasn't interested in just repeating itself or playing to nostalgia.

Music

​Nearly 50 and Nearly Unplugged: 'ChangesNowBowie' Is a Glimpse Into a Brilliant Mind

Nine tracks, recorded by the BBC in 1996 show David Bowie in a relaxed and playful mood. ChangesNowBowie is a glimpse into a brilliant mind.

Music

Reaching for the Sky: An Interview with Singer-Songwriter Bruce Sudano

How did Bruce Sudano become a superhero? PopMatters has the answer as Sudano celebrates the release of Spirals and reflects on his career from Brooklyn Dreams to Broadway.

Music

Inventions Conjure Mystery and Hope with the Intensely Creative 'Continuous Portrait'

Instrumental duo Matthew Robert Cooper (Eluvium) and Mark T. Smith (Explosions in the Sky) release their first album in five years as Inventions. Continuous Portrait is both sonically thrilling and oddly soothing.

Music

Esperanza Spalding and Fred Hersch Are 'Live at the Village Vanguard' to Raise Money for Musicians

Esperanza Spalding and Fred Hersch release a live recording from a 2018 show to raise money for a good cause: other jazz musicians.

Music

Lady Gaga's 'Chromatica' Hides Its True Intentions Behind Dancefloor Exuberance

Lady Gaga's Chromatica is the most lively and consistent record she's made since Born This Way, embracing everything great about her dance-pop early days and giving it a fresh twist.

Love in the Time of Coronavirus

Street Art As Sprayed Solidarity: Global Corona Graffiti

COVID-19-related street art functions as a vehicle for political critique and social engagement. It offers a form of global solidarity in a time of crisis.

Music

Gretchen Peters Honors Mickey Newbury With "The Sailor" and New Album (premiere + interview)

Gretchen Peters' latest album, The Night You Wrote That Song: The Songs of Mickey Newbury, celebrates one of American songwriting's most underappreciated artists. Hear Peters' new single "The Sailor" as she talks about her latest project.

Music

Okkyung Lee Goes From Classical to Noise on the Stellar 'Yeo-Neun'

Cellist Okkyung Lee walks a fine line between classical and noise on the splendid, minimalist excursion Yeo-Neun.

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews

Features
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.