Have you heard Richard Swift?

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Sometimes, it doesn’t take a whole lot to recognize talent. I stumbled across Richard Swift’s 2005 debut The Novelist/Walking Without Effort because the b/w cover of the double disc reminded me of an author photograph for one of those old Grove Press paperbacks, which I highly doubt was accidental. No song on the album clocks in at longer than three minutes but each contains multitudes.

Swift is obviously enamored with past heavies like Motown Records and the Phil Spector-approved “wall-of-sound” but one also catches subtle odes to Tin Pan Alley, Vaudeville routines, and whiskey-dipped country troubadours.

Swift; once background filler for bands like Starflyer 59, has continued to write and record sensationally stunning records without any of the contagious big-headedness most solo singer-songwriters regularly succumb to. 2007’s Dressed Up For the Letdown contained what may have been 2007’s best song with the positively radiant “Kisses for the Misses” which rides a slick piano gallop high into the sunny hills.

Swift also released an LP of electronic musings with 2008’s Music From the Films of R. Swift under the heady moniker Instruments of Science & Technology which proved he could also dabble in the wordless, and totally pull it off. Swift’s latest was April’s The Atlantic Ocean. a fully-fleshed song cycle that boasts some of Swift’s best songs to date and is absolutely perfect for that mid-summer barbeque in the backyard. Swift has yet to garner the acclaim he obviously deserves but he’s also one of those guys you want to keep to yourself, that you secretly hope never gets too popular. So, let’s pretend this never happened. This was just one of those dreams you don’t exactly remember having; a hushed meeting in the alley, something you’re bound to forget.


Paul Barbatano lives and works in Dayton, OH. He has written about music for the Dayton City Paper and Tiny Mixtapes. He currently works at the library at the University of Dayton where he also teaches English. More from this author →