Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Seth Swirsky - Circles and Squares

Gorgeous melodic strengths, classic pop structures, and even a light dash of psychedelia go into the making of Seth Swirsky’s third solo album Circles and Squares. There’s no denying that the influence of Brian Wilson, The Beatles, and other late 60’s American acts hold considerable sway over the songwriting and sonic architecture of Circles and Squares, but no one has quite the same ear for melody that Swirsky does. Moreover, his talent for writing concise mini-symphonies is virtually unparalleled in the modern music scene and nothing ever feels arbitrary in these songs. Swirsky’s gift for words, melody, and arrangement are functional; the same beautifully focused economy applies across the board on this – his third release to date. 

“Shine” is a perfect example. You’ll likely realize, after listening to the album in its entirety at least once, that Swirsky could not have possibly chosen a better opening number. The presence of piano in the song is key and helps push the song along in a surprisingly percussive way. Harmonies are another key component in the song, but it’s relaxed march contributes much as well. “Circles and Squares” is a title track that comes rather early on the album. Nominally, a title song is representative of the band’s efforts and, next to the opener and closer, arguably constitutes the most important track on any album. Artists typically place it at the end or in the middle of their releases, so Swirsky pulling out that particular card on only the second song is a lightly audacious move. It pays off. The rising and falling of the song creates a magical mood within a relatively short space of time and Swirsky’s vocal is quite up for any challenges that the song poses for a singer.”Far Away” moves him from the brightly colored pop of the opening two songs into something much more deliberate and plotted out. “Far Away” never sounds sterile because of this. Instead, it plays like one of Swirsky’s more ambitious songs and sees him attempting to cover his canvas in a much different fashion than before. 

The mood turns coolly celebratory again with the song “Let’s Get Married”. This is much more reminiscent, personally, of George Harrison’s songwriting than The Beatles, per se. It is quite obviously full of much love and tenderness, but the fervor is modulated some by the distinctly laid back nature of the music. “Sonic Ferris Wheel” brings another side of Swirsky’s songwriting into play. The brash drumming and bright musical backing conceals some of the album’s darkest lyrics and the dramatic tension that create helps the song stand out as one of the best on Circles and Squares. Swirsky’s bravery is one of the most quietly impressive qualities about this release and his willingness to tackle thorny personal topics is inspiring. “Let’s Move To Spain” makes delightful use of traditional rockabilly tropes while underplaying them just enough to sound completely clichéd. 

Few artists ever write and record an album with this many sides. The multi-dimensional moods and musical shifts Swirsky brings to bear on this collection is difficult to forget because, unlike most performers, it all works. These songs are certainly the product of much labor and forethought, but Swirsky has the rare gift for making them sound like they were always there and just waiting for someone to play them. Circles and Squares couldn’t be more highly recommended.  

9 out of 10 stars 

Joshua Stryde 

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