just swell

I’ve started mostly paying for music again, and it’s wonderful, because now I don’t listen to crap, and I support indie music aside from just when I go to shows, AND I get to find out that the Swell Season released a new deluxe album, and I just downloaded it a few hours ago.

I’m not sure that most people would like them, given that a lot of what makes them awesome is the movie “Once,” so if you haven’t seen it, you may be confused. Also, though their concerts are cool, they play with the Frames, so even in a place as small as the Rialto, say, it’s still a loud cacophony of noise compared to their studio recordings, in which you can actually hear the musical part of the music. However, while they’re not my favorite people in the entire world, I really like them a lot and respect their way of doing the whole music thing. The Swell Season is really a band for musicians, I think, especially for musicians who love the Irish musical tradition. Which is awesome.

The first problem with understanding the Swell Season is that there is no real way to categorize them. Not that “genre” is ever really helpful, but where do they go? Indie music, yes, but are they folky? Bluegrassy? Irish? Something else? Their albums are collections of songs, but the songs don’t always have much to do with each other. You have Glen Hansard writing himself songs to sing, and they’re interesting lyrically, because if you just read the lyrics, they look like bad poems, but somehow they work. Then sometimes he likes to get loud with his Frames buddies. And then, out of the blue, everything will stop, and here comes Marketa Irglova with the most depressing, heartwrenchingly sad, sad song that makes you want to die, but it’s so pretty and so universally personal that you can’t help but think she’s amazing. And then, if you listen really closely to the other songs, you hear her harmonies behind Glen, and you wish that they would have evened out the levels a bit.

What I love about them is that they make music that tells you how much they love making music. It’s not really trying to be this perfectly produced gem with songs that music supervisors are clamoring for. They are not going to end up on “Grey’s Anatomy”–at least, probably not. But, just like I’m at my happiest when I am belting any song while driving in my car, you can tell that they just love what they’re doing. And they each have this unique background that they’re coming from, and they just sound like people experimenting and having fun and sharing–“We do this in Ireland.” “Oh, really? In the Czech Republic, we do this”–and just being musical. The Swell Season is like music in progress.

Definitely this album is easier to like if you’re not really music-y or if you’re not me than their previous one, which was a bit too hard to discern what the harmonies and melodies were. I’m liking it so far. Yay music! It makes me want to get writing again. G-d, I miss writing so much.


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