Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Sound engineering by Brett Allen and Nick Luca at New Monkey Studio
Without divulging any sensitive or personal information, this morning in Los Angeles in late October was a heart-wrenching, unfair and odious morning that should have been any other way than the way it was. It was a reminder - as if one were ever really needed - that we control very little and our wishes are often vaguely heard, our lives vaguely recognized past the clouds and in the heavens, where someone's supposed to be seated with all of the strings and levers. It was a reminder of the smallness that we must all acknowledge and the lightness of being that often gets scoffed at or waved away as trifle and therefore unnecessarily concerned with. It's such an easy thing to take for granted - what we have, big or small, happy or less than happy. It gets overwhelmingly difficult to smell any of the roses when times get rough or the times just get rapid and busy. Days like this one, when The Swell Season - made up of Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova, the darlings of the Oscars two years ago with the film in which they starred, "Once" - are untreatable and willfully hurtful. They contain little reason and are deceptive in their approach, leaving us in stunned disbelief when they descend. They make you want to just sit down at a piano bench and let your fingers talk, because there's nothing that your mouth could possibly say to help the way you're feeling. There's almost no way that your mouth could even operate enough without quivering and unraveling into ribbons of lip and dryness. The music of the Swell Season likes to take us to these many splendored places of introspection and emotion where words can only begin to explain what's actually happening. Hansard and Irglova strike out with their beautiful chemistry and their own set of experiences to rush us into the company of moments that are dimly lit, damp, downcast and yet still moments that we couldn't possibly do without. They are the times that stop us dead in our tracks to think about something besides ourselves for just one goddamn second and to feel many of the consolatory feelings that we get when we don't get treated the way we had dreamed we would be. We set out with a thought that there is pie in the sky and that true love will demonstrate its resiliency and its fantastic determination to zero in on its specific targets, never straying from its aim. Oh, that's just not so, suggest the Swell Season, as the band (which now typically features Hansard's long-time bandmates The Frames filling out the group on the road) tends to find the wells where tears are stored and they slash the tires out from underneath them and they bring on the water. Hansard and Irglova, who became romantically connected during the filming and subsequent promotion of "Once," but saw that romance flag and then disappear back into the working relationship that it started as, are loyalists to the enviable and staunch belief in love, in its finer powers, in its strength, but despite its power, it often still gets deflated and defeated by other acts of fate and misfortune. Hansard sings on "In These Arms," "Maybe I was born to hold you in these arms," and there's every part of him that believes in that - in the idyllic version of love conquering over all. But then there is a time during the beautiful folk of "Star Star," a special version of which here has Irglova inserting a stunning piece of "Oh, Holy Night" when Hansard sings that "time is the enemy" and "time is the guise," at once suggesting that time could both ruin and it could be exactly what retains the bonds of a love. Divine nights and divine days, can turn and oftentimes do. It's where the Swell Season's most pointed worries are rooted, but even so, love is attempted and love is sought, as slippery as it may be.
The Swell Season Official Site