Written By: Lindsey Hecht
Label: Anti – Rating:
Comprised of Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová, The Swell Season is an unlikely, yet magically uplifting, duo. Since winning an Oscar for ‘Best Original Song’ the pair have been hard at work creating music that seems to effortlessly manifest tracks far above audience expectations.
On my most recent CD-release radar has been their much anticipated follow-up album, “Strict Joy.” This 12-track compilation demonstrates their inherent musical talent via shared vocals, with Irglová on piano and Hansard on the guitar. With each successive track, the music and lyrics evidently create a fantasy world in which its listeners can bask in their experience of real-life love and loss. Though Hansard wrote and provides main vocals for the majority of songs, Irglová’s backing vocals remain crucial as her tranquil expressions perfectly compliment her partner.
Although bylines suggest that Glen leads as composing frontman, Markéta’s talent is unmistakable in ‘I Have Loved You Wrong,’ which Markéta composed entirely. With a verse so lyrically strong, she writes “But this estranged organ in my chest / Still beats for you / It will not rest, so / Meet me in our secret place / When the time has come.” Her words are written with the potency of a libretto, and force me to visualize an intimate candor as Hansard holds her tightly with his backing vocals. However gifted each member is on their own, the duo is at their strongest when vocals are weaved together, like in ‘Fantasy Man’; a seamless harmony of sincerity and truth.
Though the musical inspiration for ‘Strict Joy’ is rumored to have been derived from the experience of their eventual break-up, the album is a breath of fresh air when compared to the more common method of on-air pity parties or abrasive hate songs. Their ability to work closely with one another to develop yet another unique and fascinating album only creates greater expectations for their work in the future.
It would be difficult for audiences of any genre not to fall in love with the band, and the journey involved in listening to this album. The Swell Season has become bloated with an ever growing fan base, and just as the album is named ‘Strict Joy,’ so do those words come to life and become a real emotion within me when its tracks are heard.