Wednesday 16 October 2013

SWF - Let It Be Told

Album review by

For several years there have been discussions about the relevance of albums now that the way music is accessed and consumed has changed. People just downloading the singles, skipping the songs they don't like on first listen, playing their entire record collection on shuffle... would albums die out? Ash famously decided to do away with conventional albums and released a single every couple of weeks for a year instead. This rapid-fire approach didn't pay off, with radio not being used to having that pace of turnover on its playlists, and with the novelty wearing off. They ended by sticking all the singles on one CD at the end of it anyway, which basically shoots the whole thing in the foot. What's likely is that little will change. Real music fans will still listen to whole albums, maybe not on vinyl or CD, maybe digitally or through online streams or even illegal downloads. Any sales downturn a band experiences is likely to be through there simply being so much more choice that their potential fanbase is diluted. Or people have grabbed the record off Pirate Bay or whatever.

Why go into that whole discussion? Because US musician SWF (his full name is Stevie Weinstein-Foner, originally from Boston) has given us first-hand proof of why albums can be the best medium of listening to music. The pop world generally aim for two big pop hits, a ballad as the third single, and then stuff the rest of the album with filler. They're a waste. You're better off buying the singles. Well 'Let It be Told' is the total opposite. Ahead of release a couple of tracks from this record were made available for streaming. They were OK, nothing to write home about, maybe nothing to write a review about even. Placed in their proper context here - nine tracks, just over half an hour - and it all works so much better. This is an album, it works best as an album, it should be listened to as an album. The songs sound better in this format because you get a better understanding of what the artist and the music is about. These aren't throwaway pop hits, these are songs to be listened to more than a couple of times, and will reward you by sounding better each play.

'Black & Golden' somehow seems to have more life and 'Let It be Told' is suddenly more meaningful. The slightly lazy sounding alt-rock of 'Turtle Brain' fits the style and it begins to fall into place. These are, fundamentally, songs based around one man and his guitar, but with the addition of percussion and drums as well as bass, other layers of guitar and harmonies we have some very nice Americana-influenced, chilled-out alternative guitar tunes - call them rock or pop or whatever, it doesn't matter. There's more diversity than expected, but it all fits neatly; fuzz-rock is given an airing on the brilliant 'Automobile Blues', giving variety without really breaking stride; 'No More Secrets' could have been produced for him by Neil Young, it has a similar vibe to some of the Canadian's early '70s work; the chiming guitar and harmonies on 'Saturn Return' make for some nice alt-country. The reverb-soaked 'Broken Glass' in the opus of the album, five minutes of distorted guitar, a stripped-back song that's made to sound like a wall of noise with a gospel side to it. It impresses greatly and paves the way perfectly for short, optimistic closer 'Only Child'. Forget any inhibitions. You can get 'Let It Be Told' on vinyl, CD and download, and you can even stream it below. Just listen to the bloody thing as a whole.

SWF's website

Stream or buy the album

Catch him live:

Oct 18 The Delancey, New York, NY

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