Swell Season survives heartbreak to play on this week at the Wiltern
Plenty watched Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova fall in love. On its way to a worldwide box-office gross of more than $20 million, the 2007 film “Once” reflected and fictionalized their lives.“To this day, people get confused as to where the lines are,” Irglova said. “The lines do blur. I meet people all the time who are like, ‘How’s your daughter?’ And I don’t have a daughter.”
But they do have a very real musical partnership as Swell Season, even if the two are no longer linked romantically.
Swell Sweason recently released "Strict Joy" on Silver Lake-based independent Anti-, a label that had a prior relationship with Hansard through his work in Irish rockers the Frames. If "Once" captured an idealized version of Hansard and Irglova coming together, "Strict Joy" presents a more sobering version of a relationship disintegrating
When asked whether he considered “Strict Joy” a breakup record, Hasnard said, “I think it would be a lie to say it’s not, but at the same time, I think it would be a lie to say that’s what it is. That sounds like a very vague answer. The songs are about relationships, and I think it would be really crass of me and Mar to sit here and say we wrote every song about each other. … I wouldn’t say it’s a break up record. I’d say a breakup is definitely in it because that’s the truth of the life that we’ve been living.”
Emotionally rich with an understated sonic adventurousness, “Strict Joy” expands the Swell Season sound beyond the sparse beauty of the songs of “Once.” Selections such as “Low Rising” and “The Rain” once again contrast Hasnard’s zealous vocals and Irglova’s delicate backing harmonies but add in fuller arrangements with light orchestral flourishes.
“How I felt about the original Swell Season record is that it was beautiful, but it was quite black and white,” Hasnard said. “We wanted a bit of color and contrast in this record.”
KCRW’s music director Jason Bentley praises the album for dealing with adult themes in a mature manner. “They’re tapping similar ground on this album, in terms of the calamity of heartbreak and in the intimacy of relationships, which of course everyone can relate to,” he said. " 'Low Rising' definitely sets the tone -- ‘Hey, we’re going to sit down and deal with this.' "
You can watch the pair perform "Low Rising" above when they stopped by the Pop & Hiss HQ to discuss the album. The full story is here, as well as a video interview and multiple Swell Season performances.
-- Todd Martens
Swell Season at the Wiltern, 3790 Wilshire Blvd. Wednesday, Nov. 18 (sold-out), and Thursday, Nov. 19.