Release Date: Jul 31, 2012
Record label: Misra
Genre(s): Folk, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Pop/Rock, Alternative Country-Rock, Country-Folk
Let's make one thing clear -- there was never a secret supergroup session at some home studio in Nashville that included Lee Hazlewood, Townes Van Zandt, Stuart Staples from Tindersticks, and Mickey Newbury. That's unforunate on a basic level, but also because it would have handily explained the genesis of the sounds emanating from Occasion For Song by The Black Swans. The Ohio-based band led by singer/songwriter Jerry DeCicca bears its share of melancholy and then some on their fifth album, but so do a million and one other indie bands, and none of them come anywere close to evoking the same sort of sad-sack super session described above.
Occasion for Song, the fifth album by the Black Swans, is haunted by absence, from its cover art depicting a diving board over a swimming pool on the front, and late violinist Noel Sayre's headstone on the back (he drowned in 2008), to its 12 songs. As an album, it owns the truth of that absence; it looks unflinchingly at memory, existential questions, empty space, and grief, and ultimately accepts it all. Founders, vocalist guitarist Jerry DeCicca and bassist/pianist Canaan Faulkner, are augmented here by four others on banjo, guitar, B-3, and percussion.
Jerry DeCicca is a Midwestern songwriter the same way that Patterson Hood is a Southern songwriter or that Robin Pecknold is a Pacific Northwest songwriter. Ohio is in the Ohioan's blood, so naturally it's also in his sharp, understated lyrics: the culture, the terrain, the people, the place of the place. Occasion For Song, the latest full-length by his band the Black Swans, is perhaps his most geographically defined album yet, a long drive through the state's haunted sites.
In 2008, the Black Swans lost founding member and violinist Noel Sayre when he died in a swimming accident. The band isn’t so much haunted by this loss as informed by it. The group was in the middle of making their last record, Don’t Blame the Stars, when Sayre passed away, and the band took a break from the record as part of the grieving process.
The Black Swans know heartbreak firsthand. While the Ohio-based mope-rockers have always taken a decidedly sullen approach to things, the death of founding member and violin player Noel Sayre just before the Fourth of July in 2008 gave the band’s distressed songwriting something tangible to latch onto. Occasion For Song, the band’s fifth full-length album and first post-Sayre, is a heart-on-sleeve memorial to The Black Swans’ fallen bandmate.