Friday, October 23, 2009

Album of the Week, 10/23/09--"Strict Joy" by The Swell Season

The Swell Season is upon us, and it is full of joy—Strict Joy, that is. Your favorite modest couple has returned with a follow-up to their folk classic Once. The new album, available October 27, promises to be full of quiet charm and understated warmth.

The Swell Season is Irish musician Glen Hansard of the Frames and Czech singer/pianist Marketa Irglova. After their last album earned them an unexpected Academy Award in 2008 for "Falling Slowly," the pair retreated from the acting arena and focused on what they love most—composing simple gems and playing them well.

The couple are now uncoupled. To mark the end of their two-year romance, they've written a series of swan songs as balanced as any on the previous album. Hansard's ragged vocals are tethered to Irglova's tenuous whisper in a sonic marriage underscored by layers of delicate piano and guitar. With unassuming dedication, they've spun more of the simple sounds we've come to expect. On the first track, "Low Rising," Hansard reenters Van Morrisson territory, sweeping us up in a rough embrace with tales of love's ups and downs. "The Rain" builds steadily from drizzle to downpour, while "I Have Loved You Wrong" and "Fantasy Man" shine a light on Irglova's lovely fragility. The bittersweet close of "Back Broke" shuts the door on what we hope will not be the duo's final album.

A sampling of tracks from Strict Joy:

"Low Rising"

"Feeling the Pull"

"In These Arms"

"The Rain"

The Swell Season playing "Paper Cup" (from Strict Joy) for NPR:

Much joy to you this weekend.


  1. I remember seeing "Once". I thought it was pretty good. Thanks for posting about their new music. ... looks like the public library has some of their cds.

    btw- Cage the Elephant is coming to the Blue Note. It should be show-worthy.

  2. Did anyone else have to watch Once with subtitles?
    Nonetheless, talented musicians at work.

  3. Thanks for the tip!

    A good friend of mine saw The Swell Season live and can't say enough good things about them.

  4. Once with subtitles...very helpful indeed. Amazing movie.

    Swell Season at the Pageant...AMAZING

    Strict Joy sampling...The PooBah abides.

    Using ellipsis with reckless abandon...forever.

  5. They're playing KC on Nov 30th - and the Pageant in St. Louis the 4th!