Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The Swell Season - Strict Joy

After winning an Academy Award for Best Original Song (Falling Slowly), Glen Hansard & Markéta Irglová practically became household names. In addition to their popularity rising exponentially, their personal romance was speculated and then confirmed as being genuine. It seemed to be a match made for a TV movie. If the songs that were written and performed in the film Once were about them falling in love and finding the spark in each other, then their newest album can only be seen as its antithesis. They are no longer an item (in the romantic sense), but remain artistic partners. I don't think there are as many sure-fire hits on their new album as there was on the Once soundtrack, but there are a few that feel like they will grow on me and age well upon repeated listens.

The thing I find most remarkable is how this album could have even been made. Two people that seemed to fall in love on screen and off someone stayed together in a professional manner to write, sing, and record songs about each other and the emotional stress that they were going through. Even the album title gives the sense of strain and feels like an oxymoron: Strict Joy. Sounds like someone is forcing the other to be happy when they just aren't. Sounds about write when you're singing break-up songs with the person you've broken up with, right? These songs are just as emotional and heartfelt as any of their previous work but also sound more polished from a production standpoint. I still need a few more spins with the entire album, but the first few times through it sounds like The Swell Season are still hitting all the expected emotional and musical chords.

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