The Swell Season

The Swell Season

The Swell Season

Strict Joy


I love The Swell Season. Ever since I heard “Falling Slowly” off the Once soundtrack, I was hooked just like Frames frontman Glen Hansard and Czech beauty Marketa Irglova. But their “too good to be true” real-life romance that sprouted from the filming fell apart shortly afterwards. Strict Joy is the brilliant soundtrack to that relationship dissolving.

The opener, “Low Rising,” Hansard emotes “I want to sit you down and talk/ I want to pull back the veils/ And find out what it is I’ve done wrong.” This is the perfect beginning to the heartache that is layered within this record.

All the steps in the grieving process are there. “Two Tongues” expresses the anger as they harmonize “You’re so hard to reach/ And impossible to really read/ When you’re talking with/ Two tongues in your mouth/ And I wish you’d quit this muttering/ beneath your breath/ It’s killing me.”

Denial comes out in “Back Broke” (“I came on your command/ Don’t give me false hope/ I’m back by big demand”), while “The Verb” is the beginning of acceptance portion where Hansard calmly sings “I’ll tear my heart out no more/ I’ll burn this bridge till it’s gone/ I’m stuck here killing myself/ You’re out there laughing somewhere.”

“High Horses” is another heart-wrenching soft-spoken number where they almost whisper “Even on our worst days/ We were never quite like this.” It could have done without the fade away because the music comes back a few seconds later with no real resolve.

“I Have Loved You Wrong” is the only one that Irglova wrote and it is largely forgettable except for the end where they seem to be reminiscing while harmonizing the line “On my mind.”

While Strict Joy is a low-key and fairly easy-listening affair, the lyrics dig right to the core of their relationship, whether intentional or not. It’s hard not to get teary-eyed when listening to this 49-minute meditative break-up record. This is one of the loneliest albums I’ve heard, and one of the best of 2009.

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