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Frames frontman's side project is a thing of simple beauty,
This review is from: The Swell Season (Audio CD)
Recorded in six days during time away from his multi-platinum Irish band the Frames, The Swell Season - named after a book by Czech writer Josef Skvorecky - is in many ways a companion piece to the band's recent album, The Cost.
Fine though that album was, this is plainly a case of the pencil sketches outclassing the oil paintings. The two albums do share two songs in common, the surging, poignant Falling Slowly and the rather less memorable When Your Mind's Made Up - and it's immediately apparent that these spare, acoustic arrangements serve the emotional content more powerfully than the firepower of a full band.
That may because the subject matter of these songs is highly personal, recording the death throes of love - or it may simply betoken the general cultural movement away from the sturm und drang of band performances in favour of more simple and intimate acoustic settings. Hansard has largely abandoned his rock star identity in his native Ireland in favour of a simpler life in Prague, and here he collaborates with Czech singer and pianist Markéta Irglová and string players Marja Tuhkanen and Bertrand Galen. It's not surprising to learn that Brian Eno told Hansard to release the album just as it was, raw and rough-mixed.
The standout track here is perhaps the simplest of all. Leave begins with Hansard's voice and guitar, a low-key farewell to a departing lover which accelerates into a performance of untrammelled passion so violent it leaves the listener in shock. Almost as powerful is The Moon, a Radiohead-esque hymn to silence which provides, along with the frozen finality of Alone Apart, the last movement in this romantic tragedy.
as published at subba-cultcha.com