Richard Swift

The Hex

Secretly Canadian

Nov 08, 2018 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share


Find It At: AMAZON

The western frontier was an unforgiving place. Each town you rode into seemed to come with its own set of rules you had to navigate and adjust to immediately on arrival. And while this punishing and unpredictable environment often broke people down, it also was animated by a triumphant spirit of discovery and possibility. On Richard Swift's final album, The Hex, recorded before his death in July, the musical polymath conjures this landscape as a powerful paean to the human spirit's ceaseless search for freedom.

The songs on the album sound like reminders to self of all that he has passed through. Cavernous bass and drums that sound like they were recorded in a mineshaft anchor down "SelfishMath," a doo-wop call to arms, while spaghetti western bombast meets lo-fi synth pop on "Nancy," which crescendos into a sprawling sermon on loss that sounds like a lost Peter Gabriel track. His vocals are crisp like dawn light filtered through a narrow canvas opening and the longing and desperation of gospel rests effortlessly above fuzzy guitar pop. The eclectic fusion and silken power balladry find a kindred spirit in the early solo work of Todd Rundgren.

Like Rundgren, who also played in other bands and acted as a producer, the drums provide a strong lead to the wry observations, and the sounds-while always sounding home recorded-never sound anything short of scientifically precise. Unlike Rundgren though, these tracks deal with a despair beyond simple romantic love. This is not an album made by a person who retreats after a break-up, this is an album made by someone who has spent an unknowable amount of time drifting in and out of spaces without ever feeling rooted. Yet for all of the serious subject matter, the album offers humor and lightness as ways to process the pain. RIP. (www.richardswift.us)  

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