Back to Basics


Make text smaller Make text larger




After living in Southern California for a number of years, Richard Swift has moved to Oregon, where wide-open spaces and pastures, far from urban life, lend well to songwriting and peace of mind. It’s a plan that doesn’t easily fit the conventional rock ’n’ roll lifestyle, but Swift traverses a non-traditional musical landscape—with insights and craftsmanship that spring from no well-trod path. On Dressed Up for the Letdown, Swift’s songs—carnivalesque, ragtimey and wonderful—stick out like a sore thumb in discussions of contemporary indie rock buzz bands.


Although the Minnesota farm native would rather look around than be looked at (he sings, “I made my way into the spotlight just to realize it’s not what I want” on “Songs of National Freedom”), he has spent a lot of time as a focal point while compelled by an urge to move away from it all with his wife and three daughters.


“I live in a town of 9,010 people,” says Swift. “That’s just how I like it. I want to hopefully be building a house outside of town at some point, but yeah, there’s not really too many people around, and I kinda like that. I lived in California for a number of years, and it started to do my head in.”


Dressed Up is hardly the cry of a man who needs to clear his head; it’s dramatically stylish pop, rife with saloon piano romps and tasteful guitar solos that mimic Swift’s lifting vocal melodies. Occasional playful psychedelia on the album calls for a vocoder effect or a programmed beat, but an organic structure overshadows everything else. “Buildings in America” ripples with memorable one-liners (“I played your heart, but I broke two strings”) and sporadic plinks that linger in corners not fleshed out by acoustic guitar before the whole damn thing shifts into a full-band showstopper of harps, muddied bass lines and swirling background noise. It’s a burst of color that seems extraordinarily out of place on this number, but it fits snugly into the magical aesthetic of Dressed Up, a work from someone who sounds like he’s seen the whole world 10 times over but would rather retreat to the modest rewards of near-isolation.


“Dylan moved out to the country after he got sick of the New York City life and wanted to raise a family,” Swift explains. “I think it’s a natural thing for people to do. It seems pretty natural to me. I just want a little bit more of tranquility in my life. Southern California is really tough; you find yourself wondering if you can compromise a bit just so you can pay your incredibly high rent that month, so it’s a lot easier to keep my overhead low and be able to create 24/7 and have a family and all that stuff. That’s more important than rock ’n’ roll to me, really."


April 21, Luna Lounge, 361 Metropolitan Ave. (at Havemeyer St.), B’klyn, 866-468-7619; 8, $10/$12. (also April 22 at Pianos).


Make text smaller Make text larger

Comments