March 19, 2013

Richard Swift :: Ambassador of Awesome

With all of the hullabaloo surrounding Foxygen—who, yes, released what's sure to be one of the very best records of 2013, if not the next five years or so—I've been digging into the back catalogue of Richard Swift—the man responsible for discovering the act and producing their debut full-length, We Are The 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace and Magic. Foxygen principles Sam France and Jonathan Rado are not only indebted to Swift's ear for talent and the analog recording techniques he's mastered at his fabled National Freedom studio in Cottage Grove, Oregon, but also Swift's own outsider-pop music—a key inspiration for and ingredient in Foxygen's dozen or so home-recorded oddball pop albums from high school. Swift has time and again captured and repurposed the vintage sound and appeal of the 1960s soul single—as on "Lady Luck" and "The Bully"—with razor sharp melodies, warbly textural production, and a charismatic personality that at turns confidently struts in falsetto, and in refreshing un-seriousness, delivers ribbings with shrewd comical force. Like with Foxygen, Swift seems to always be talked about in reference to the many acts he's produced—Damien Jurado, The Mynabirds, Laetitia Sadier, and Pickwick, who recently covered Swift's own "Lady Luck" with Sharon Van Etten—or the band he occasionally plays in, The Shins. But if you've got a turntable and a few hours to kill, there's few more interesting and enjoyable oeuvre's to dive into than Swift's own: a deeply personal, complex, and idiosyncratic home-brewed discography filled with heavy wafts of foggy psychedelia, molten hot tambourine-skipping R&B, and grimy garage rock. First, kick things off with a favorite from Swift's most recent album, Walt Wolfman: the hilariously engaging sing-along "Drakula (Hey Man)." Then below, snag a few downloads and proceed to go buy up all of the vinyl released by this under-appreciated holy force of awesome.

Grab Richard Swift vinyl from Secretly Canadian's SC DistributionPhotos by Sarah Jurado.

Richard Swift - "A Song For Milton Feher"
Richard Swift - "Whitman"
Richard Swift & Damien Jurado - "Crazy Like A Fox"

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