new album released Oct 27th
from the album - Low Rising
YouTube - 'Low Rising' by Swell Season on Q TV
Formed by the Frames' frontman Glen Hansard and Czech songstress Markéta Irglová, the Swell Season (named after a novel by humanist Czech writer Josef Skvorecky) are a songwriting duo with a penchant for vocal harmonies and acoustic-based songcraft. The pop/rock twosome released a self-titled debut in 2006, just after the appearance of the Frames' sixth effort, The Cost. Hansard and Irglová also appeared as working-class immigrants in the popular Irish movie Once, which was presented at the Sundance Film Festival in 2007. The following year, the duo received an Academy Award for Best Original Song for the film's hit single, "Falling Slowly," and the Swell Season's popularity surged as a result.
Once: Music from the Motion Picture went gold in February 2008, and an accompanying tour saw the group performing to sold-out crowds in multiple countries. Of course, part of the group's appeal was the real-life relationship of its co-founders, which lent a romantic chemistry to the Swell Season's stage show. Hansard and Irglová ultimately split up in January 2009, yet the band continued moving forward with a sophomore release, Strict Joy, which appeared later that year.
When Once hit theaters in 2007, Glen Hansard had already pursued international acclaim for more than 15 years with the Frames. Although popular in Ireland, the singer's music wasn't nearly as omnipresent in other countries until the movie's release, which catapulted former Frames tunes like "Falling Slowly" into the spotlight. The Once soundtrack was also a big hit, turning Hansard's side project with simpatico songwriter Markéta Irglová into a full-fledged, award-winning, globetrotting band. While playing international venues and attending industry award shows, the two attracted additional attention for their real-life relationship, which effectively replaced Once's semi-tearful conclusion with a storybook ending. Released two years after the film's release, however, Strict Joy finds Hansard and Irglová going their separate ways, choosing to end their relationship while remaining in the same band.
Hansard has used heartbreak for fuel in the past, and he keeps the blaze going throughout these 12 tracks. If the Once soundtrack was a bit spotty — its track list culled from a haphazard array of old Frames songs, Van Morrison covers, collaborative material, and musicians' own tunes — then Strict Joy shows what the Swell Season can do with a singular theme and a solid backing band, both of which contribute to the album's cohesion. Van Morrison's influence is still apparent, particularly in the '70s-styled soul of "Low Rising," but the singer/songwriter ambience that permeated Once's music doesn't carry as much weight here. Instead, Strict Joy devotes more concern to exploring the lush possibilities of Swell Season's sound, which now includes tasteful doses of strings, electric guitar, and overdubbed harmonies. The results are quite often gorgeous, with songs like "The Rain" and "Wild Horses" building up to expansive, cathartic climaxes over the course of several minutes. Also striking are the performances by Markéta Irglová, who turns her fragile voice — an instrument that always seemed detrimentally self-conscious on previous albums — into something alluring on "Fantasy Man" and "I Have Loved You Wrong." It's testament to the band's vision that they remain focused despite such improvements; no amount of cinematic orchestration can change the fact that these songs are, after all, inward-looking tunes about heartbreak and personal struggle, and their lyrics resonate regardless of their wrapping paper. As a result, Strict Joy is a joy from start to finish, and few bands manage to mix intimacy and sweeping songcraft with such finesse.
1 Low Rising Hansard 04:47
2 Feeling the Pull Hansard 02:20
3 In These Arms Hansard 03:33
4 The Rain Hansard 03:40
5 Fantasy Man Hansard, Irglova 05:06
6 Paper Cup Hansard 03:21
7 High Horses Hansard 04:59
8 The Verb Hansard 04:31
9 I Have Loved You Wrong Irglova 05:04
10 Love That Conquers Hansard 03:56
11 Two Tongues Hansard 03:45
12 Back Broke Hansard 04:02