03 November 2009


I think I've mentioned before that I don't consider myself a writer by any stretch of the imagination. That's the main reason I very rarely do album reviews. However, I felt like putting in my two cents on the latest from The Swell Season. So prepare for what will likely be the shortest review anywhere on the web.

First, a tad bit of background for those who happen by and aren't already familiar with the group.

The Swell Season is fronted by Irishman Glen Hansard (of The Frames) and Czechoslovakian singer and musician Markéta Irglová. The rest of the band varies, but usually has at least a couple of Glen's Frames band mates.

Depending on how you look at it, Strict Joy is either their second or third album. The debut being an album titled The Swell Season, by Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová and the second (on some lists) is the Once soundtrack, on which the majority of the tracks where performed by Hansard and Irglová.

So here's my brief and in-eloquent review of Strict Joy:

There have been many follow-up albums over the years that have come up short of the greatness of the disc that made a given band "big". I am very happy to say that this is not the case with this one. After giving the album several listens, I can honestly say that I'm enamored with it even more than I was with their debut album, and I was quite fond of that one.

"Feeling the Pull" is gorgeous. Markéta's voice has never been more beautiful than on "I Have Loved You Wrong". And "Love That Conquers" ventures into - dare I say it - nearly Dylan-esque territory.

Buy it. Better yet, buy the deluxe version. You won't regret it.

But don't take my word for it. Download "In These Arms" for free and legal right here, or catch them on their North American tour and see for yourself:

Tonight Toronto, ON Massey Hall
Nov 4 Montreal, QC Olympia de Montreal
Nov 6 Boston, MA Berklee Performance Center
Nov 7 Providence, RI Lupo's
Nov 8 Philadelphia, PA Merriam Theatre
Nov 9 Washington, DC 9:30 Club
Nov 12 New Orleans, LA House of Blues
Nov 13 Houston, TX Warehouse Live
Nov 14 Dallas, TX Palladium Ballroom
Nov 15 Austin, TX Paramount Theatre
Nov 17 Mesa, AZ Mesa Arts Center (Yeah!!)
Nov 18 & 19 Los Angeles, CA The Wiltern
Nov 20 Oakland, CA Paramount Theatre
Nov 22 Seattle, WA Paramount Theatre
Nov 23 Eugene, OR McDonald Theatre
Nov 24 Portland, OR Crystal Ballroom
Nov 25 Vancouver, BC The Centre
Nov 27 Boise, ID Egyptian Theatre
Nov 28 Salt Lake City, UT Jeanne Wagner Theatre
Nov 29 Denver, CO Ogden Theatre
Nov 30 Kansas City, MO Uptown Theater
Dec 2 Ann Arbor, MI Michigan Theatre
Dec 3 Chicago, IL Auditorium Theatre (Seriously? Did they have a contest for most redundant name?)
Dec 4 St. Louis, MO The Pageant
Dec 5 Minneapolis, MN State Theatre

Then it's off to a jaunt around Europe. All the details are on their site, along with several music samples.

The albums:

The Swell Season, 2006 (buy)
Once, 2007 (buy)
Strict Joy, 2009 (buy) (buy deluxe) (deluxe comes with a full-length live CD and a live DVD)

I have no good rarities from The Swell Season, but since I can't go away without giving you any music, here's an mp3 that was passed along to me just yesterday that I'm already digging. It's from a band called Welcome to Ashley, which I don't yet know a whole lot about, but this song reminds me a bit of the really good alternative bands that were around in the eighties. A bit of The Smiths with a dash of PiL, and throw in some Athens, GA bands. Enjoy

Welcome to Ashley - "Nothing But Grey Skies"

Now for new releases:

Aqua Teen Hunger Force - Have Yourself a Meaty Little Christmas (buy) (I'll admit it. I'm curious)
Foo Fighters - Greatest Hits (buy) (Catalog killer, but it comes with a full DVD)
Morrissey - Swords (buy) (B-sides compilation)
Nirvana - Live at Reading (buy) (CD and DVD - not a big fan myself, but I know others love 'em)
Weezer - Raditude (buy) (buy deluxe)
Various Artists - The Village (buy) (Looks like a good folky comp.)

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