Release Date: Oct 27, 2009
Record label: Anti
Genre(s): Rock, Pop, Alternative
Hansard has used heartbreak for fuel in the past, and he keeps the blaze going throughout these 12 tracks. If the Once soundtrack was a bit spotty -- its track list culled from a haphazard array of old Frames songs, Van Morrison covers, collaborative material, and the musicians' own tunes -- then Strict Joy shows what the Swell Season can do with a singular theme and a solid backing band, both of which contribute to the album's cohesion. Van Morrison's influence is still apparent, particularly in the '70s-styled soul of "Low Rising," but the singer/songwriter ambience that permeated Once's music doesn't carry as much weight here.
After falling in love on screen and off, Once’s Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová quit dating. On Strict Joy, their slow-strummed Americana has gone from wistful to blubbering-into-your-Guinness sad, with words like ”rain” and ”hurt” harmonized over plinking piano keys. Occasionally, all that lamenting gets nap-inducing. Luckily, Hansard saves some rage for ”Feeling the Pull,” which suggests the best love songs come from those who don’t believe in them anymore.
The Swell Season have their work cut out for them with their second album, Strict Joy. The duo of Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová released their debut effort in 2006 under the name The Swell Season, and have toured using that moniker for the last few years. However, they came to fame starring as musicians falling in love in the 2007 film Once. They even won an Oscar for the song “Falling Slowly”, but were credited under their own names.
The two are so inextricably linked that it's easy to forget the Swell Season actually preceded Once, the little movie that rocketed Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová to global fame. For that matter, several of the songs on that film's breakthrough soundtrack precede the film, too. In fact, "Falling Slowly"-- the standout track from the film and the song that won the Swell Season its Academy Award for Best Original Song-- first appeared on the Swell Season's 2006 debut and soon after on The Cost-- the sixth album by Hansard's underdog band the Frames.