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The Atlantic Ocean

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Album Review

Genre-hopping Minnesota-based pop auteur Richard Swift's The Atlantic Ocean is more of an "official" follow-up to 2007's Dressed Up for the Letdown than the double shot of Music from the Films of R/Swift (under the pseudonym Instruments of Science and Technology) and the cathartic but nearly unlistenable Richard Swift as Onasis. Where the latter two releases felt like "Hail Marys" tossed into the musical ether, Ocean serves as a return to the kind of sharp-tongued, Beatlesque retro-pop that fueled 2005's Novelist/Walking Without Effort and the aforementioned Letdown. This time around it's the late Harry Nilsson who casts the largest shadow, especially on the hipster-slamming title track, which sets the tone for a string of "Martha My Dear"-meets-"Me and My Arrow" backbeats, comforting, timeless melodies, and lyrics that juggle biting satire and whimsy with startling acumen. The Atlantic Ocean also mimics Letdown's tight, dry, and confident production style, trading the heavily compressed, wax cylinder coating that made Novelist feel like a Tin Pan Alley curio for a contemporary indie pop sheen that echoes the Swedish chamber pop of Jens Lekman and Sondre Lerche. It's easily Swift's most accomplished record to date, and while his center of gravity may reside firmly in the '60s — closer "Lady Luck" sounds like a lost Motown session — it 's executed without a wink, a discipline that the current crop of retro-soul/R&B/glam rock/folk-pop grave robbers could benefit from.


Born: 1977 in California

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '00s, '10s

Singer/songwriter Richard Swift's lo-fi, sepia-tone style harks back to the Tin Pan Alley age. Born in 1977, the California native spent his youth locked in his room with a four-track recorder, a device that -- along with a computer -- the artist continues to utilize to this day. Influenced by everyone from Bob Dylan to early-'70s dub acts like the Congos and Lee Perry, he has provided keyboards for shoegazers Starflyer 59 and released two records of his own, Walking Without Effort and The Novelist,...
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The Atlantic Ocean, Richard Swift
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