The Swell Season, the rice season
March 8, 2008 Leave a comment
I don’t like critics because sometimes they care too much about things they don’t like. I understand when they criticize things they care – but sometimes they only care because they don’t like. I rather write about things I like. So happened with the album The Swell Season by Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová. I’m from Slovakia, 15 years ago I lived in Czechoslovakia and many of these years in Czech republic. So I enjoy successes of Czech persons nearly as much as successes of our (Slovak) ones. Markéta with her Irish partner Glen (leader of The Frames, BTW) are the case. Oscar for the Best Original Song (Falling Slowly) is success without a doubt. I still plan to see their movie Once but I’ve already heard the original album where most of the songs come from.
First time I’ve heard Falling Slowly it was on YouTube – their Oscar show performance. And – like it or not – first word that came to my mind was “rice”. As of Damien Rice, of course. Now – don’t get me wrong. I don’t care that their songs remind me Damien Rice a lot. I like his song and so I like The Swell Season. Sometimes I go way too deep into analysis what is common but maybe I should go deeper and find out what’s not as well. But I don’t care because I like it all. I didn’t need to analyze it really. Just compare Delicate (first song of Damien’s O album) with This Low (first song from The Swell Season).
Skip this paragraph if you want to avoid unnecessary cold-blooded analysis. But… it’s probably just an accident – both songs are in 3/4 rhythm. But what really stroke me is very similar way how they both play the guitar – I can’t describe it well in (for me) foreign language. 3/4 rhythm is characteristic with its waving flow. And the first wave (first time) is always a bit more emphasized. That’s why on waltz lessons you can hear often count 1-2-3, 2-2-3. There’s a reason for this. Back to those guitars. They both sort of take a breath in the second time for a first note in the another first time. Now it sounds like I had to think a lot about it, but no. Those guitar swirls there just hit my ear. When I played both songs one after another I found them not so alike – because Damien used more female vocal and cello along with guitar and piano in other songs – maybe the closest mix to what you can hear in This Low is in Damien’s Cold Water (except those low male choirs). Anyway, piano, guitar, female second voice, cello or violin – this all mixed together into intimate songs. You can’t deny this is their common ground.
First I was afraid The Swell Season would miss something like Damien’s I Remember – I mean the second part grading really high that the sound is even purportedly distorted in that noise. But When Your Minds Made Up delivered this (to some extent ;-)). And as you’re getting closer to the end of the album you find more and more distinct features. Title The Swell Season instrumental with violin lines is far from “Damienish“, voice performance in Leave brings something else as well. And final Alone Apart may be “just as intimate as Damien’s songs”, but the overall sound is kinda different, isn’t it?
To wrap it up: I enjoy both albums and I welcome something new in a style I like. Gosh, I know it’s from 2006 and now it’s 2008, but whatever. 😉 And don’t think I’ve never heard about Lou Reed or Leonard Cohen – I just like this more. This wasn’t article about who was first after all. It was only first of (maybe more) posts about music I like.