Everybody Wants to Know

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The sixth album by Swell is actually a solo effort by longtime bandleader David Freel, who claims to enjoy playing with a band onstage but prefers recording alone in the studio. (He's joined on just over half of these songs by drummer Rey Washam.) The resulting sound is strange, moody guitar pop with hooks that take you by surprise because the music doesn't sound like it ought to have hooks -- the jagged found sound sampling on "...A Velvet Sun" gives way to a melancholy chorus that might be a vague tribute to the Police's "Invisible Sun," and the very strange shards of mistreated guitar that start off "Like Poverty" lead into a downright fruity chord progression and a shimmery singalong refrain. Throughout this album Freel flirts with annoying self-absorption, but repeatedly saves himself by virtue of pure musical invention; instead of constantly begging you to listen to his problems, he keeps distracting you from them even as he unburdens himself. Recommended.

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