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Richard Swift - Dressed Up For The Letdown

Richard Swift, Dressed Up For The Letdown

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 3 out of 5

RICHARD Swift is another of the hotly-tipped artists of the moment. His sound recalls the melodic style of Burt Bacharach, the complex emotional sweep of Rufus Wainwright and the winsome orchestrations of Van Dyke Parks.

His latest album Dressed Up For The Letdown is a good listen that stops just short of being great. Perhaps it’s because there’s currently far too many heart-on-sleeve indie-rock troubadours at the moment; or perhaps it’s that some of his songs outstay their welcome.

Certainly, there are moments that feel a little too self-indulgent. Yet ironically, they’re also the very same ones that mark Swift out as an individual artist in his own right.

Swift definitely brings a defined sense of style to many of his songs, not to mention a great deal of emotional burden and self-doubt. Sometimes this is endearing, other times it’s just plain troubling. But his album is still worth recommending, particularly if you’re a fan of artists such as diverse as Scott Matthews and Burt Bacharach.

Album opener and title track is a decent enough introduction to what lies in store. A handclapping beat giving way to hushed vocals and some tender guitar riffs that slowly work their way into your subconscious and captivate. It’s a little overlong but it provides a promising platform.

There’s something a little more idiosyncratic and individual about The Songs Of National Freedom – its pianos containing something of a theatrical sweep and a keen sense of Sgt Pepper-era Beatles and the aforementioned Bacharach. It’s the type of song that you’ll either find completely endearing or utterly annoying, depending on your mood.

Most Of What I Know is another strong offering that embodies many classic songwriting elements – vocally, it hints at Jeff Lyne and George Harrison, while the guitars are probably at their most enjoyable. It’s a song that’s drenched in classic melodies that offers one of the album’s easiest and most accessible listens. What’s more, it’s a good anthem for the romantic (it’s uplifting chorus stating “your love will keep my heart alive”).

Buildings In America is another beautiful piece of songwriting – the acoustic chords working well with a simple beat and some clever lyrics.

But those self-indulgent, slightly arty pretensions rear their head on Artist & Repertoire and continue on Kisses For The Misses, two tracks that fail to emerge as endearing as they ought to be. The horns on Artist & Repertoire, in particular, revealing the singer’s obvious affection for turn-of-the-century music hall traditions (as properly evidenced on his last album, The Novelist).

Much better, although slightly more melancholy, is the piano-led ballad Ballad of You Know Who and the guitar-driven The Million Dollar Baby which are far more straight-forward and a lot more affecting. It’s during such moments that Swift wins your heart with his obvious insecurity (especially when singing “I wish I was dead most of the time”) and demonstrates why there’s currently so much hype surrounding him.

Dressed Up For The Letdown is therefore worth checking out, especially if you’re a fan of the singer-songwriter kind of thing. It’s individual enough to make its own mark, whilst capturing your heart in places. Just don’t expect to be utterly swept off your feet.

Download picks: The Songs of National Freedom, Buildings In America, Ballad of You Know Who, The Million Dollar Baby.

Track listing:

  1. Dressed Up For The Letdown
  2. The Songs Of National Freedom
  3. Most Of What I Know
  4. Buildings In America
  5. Artist & Repertoire
  6. Kisses For The Misses
  7. P.S. It All Falls Down
  8. Ballad Of You Know Who
  9. The Million Dollar Baby
  10. The Opening Band