Richard Swift Dressed Up for the Letdown

[Secretly Canadian; 2007]

Call me old-fashioned, but sometimes I just want to hear a great song with a lovely verse, catchy chorus, and, if possible, some thoughtful instrumentation. In this day and age, that may be a tall order, so call me a dreamer too. Well boys and girls, I'm writing to tell you that dreams do come true for those who seek. Over the course of ten songs, Richard Swift manages to knock my listening socks off over and over again, giving me enough sweet melodies and clever lyrics to last through most of 2007.

The title Dressed Up for the Letdown seems to playfully allude to the potential disappointment that sophomore efforts often represent, but armed with that spirit of playfulness, Swift manages to fully dodge that bullet. Although his rough-around-the-edges production and label affiliation suggest he is a folkie or New Weird American, his songwriting harkens back more to Tin Pan Alley than The Incredible String Band. In fact, his spiritual forefathers are more accurately Randy Newman and Van Dyke Parks, particularly their late '60s, early '70s output.

This isn't to say that Swift is stuck in the past. To the contrary, he's a bard of the postmodern era, willing to use the recording process as a substantial element in his songs. With that said, he can still pour out a straight-up piano ballad (with some tasteful brass accents) like "Artist & Repetoire" with all the requisite conviction. The lyrics range from directly expressing the pressures of making a living as a musician on "Artist & Repetoire" to the more veiled (and most folky) use of religious icons on "The Opening Band." But regardless of how much those topics do or don't connect with you, only the coldest of hearts could deny the tuneful charms of the young Mr. Swift.

Most Read