The Swell Season – Strict Joy

The Swell Season has done it again. But this time, they don’t need a critically acclaimed film to back it up. I’m not going to fill you in on who singer/songwriters Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova are, because if you don’t know about them by now, you probably haven’t seen their critically acclaimed film, “Once.” And you probably didn’t see the 2008 Academy Awards, where they walked onstage to receive the Oscar for Best Original Song for “Falling Slowly” from “Once.” And you most definitely were not aware of the two Grammy Awards the film’s soundtrack was nominated for. But like I said, I won’t tell you who they are…

What I will tell you is that the follow-up album to their self-titled debut is fantastic. Just like their debut album, “The Swell Season” from 2006, and “Once” from 2007, they again show us how much one can accomplish with so little. On the classy opening track, “Low Rising,” they start off with a bang, combining their smooth soul flair with their usual spot-on harmonies. As usual, Irglova provides the quiet-yet-perfect backing voice to Hansard’s loud powerful tone. She does, however, step up to the forefront on two later songs, “Fantasy Man” and “I Have Loved You Wrong,” which are obviously written about her and Hansard’s 2-year relationship that ended earlier this year. Of course, practically all the other songs on “Strict Joy” are as well.

My personal favorites are the uplifting “Feeling The Pull” and the contemplative “In These Arms.” Both songs show the highly diverse range of The Swell Season, as they change from uptempo to slow and solemn. It sure wouldn’t be an easy feat to beat or even match the success of their last record, but with an album this good, I can assure you, they won’t be falling slowly anytime soon.