SEAL OF APPROVAL: Never proud of arriving late to a good party, I hereby cop to my all-too-recent discovery of singer/songwriter Richard Swift (richardswift.us). Aside from a few musical snippets I’ve acquired who-knows-how throughout the years, I stumbled upon Swift’s name less than a month back, as co-headliner for Port O’Brien‘s (portobrien.com) upcoming gig at Muddy Waters Cafe (508 E. Haley St.). A week or so later, Swift’s name caught my attention yet again-as a buddy and fellow traveler of both Cold War Kids and the soon-to-arrive Delta Spirit (the latter plays Velvet Jones Mar. 14). With so many worthy endorsements (including a notable one from Wilco frontman Jeff Tweedy) and such a large arsenal of tunes (seven LPs and nine EPs since 2000), I went in to the experience with high expectations. Swift did not disappoint.
His soon-to-be-released eighth album, The Atlantic Ocean, is brimming with parlor-style piano parts and retro harmonies that are just as inventive as they are imitative. While “R.I.P.” works as an eerie dirge on the inevitability of death, Swift maintains an upbeat attitude by way of pounding piano keys. The almost cartoonish start to “A Song for Milton Feher” gets a dose of reality by way of its stop-start breakdowns and poignant lyrics. And the album’s closer, “Lady Luck,” is classic 1960s doo-wop, complete with falsetto harmonies and swaying rhythms. If Swift’s live show is only a hint as inspired as his recordings, we’re all in for one hell of a treat.
Richard Swift will perform an all-ages show with Port O’Brien on Thursday, March 12, at Muddy Waters Cafe. The show starts at 8:30 p.m. Tickets can be purchased by visiting clubmercy.com.
IN THE GARAGE: For some equally thought-provoking and timeless tunes on an even more intimate level, I recommend a trip up the 101 for SBDIY‘s Sunday night show at the Biko Garage (6612 Sueno Rd., Isla Vista). Starting at 8 p.m., the show space will host Santa Barbara-based lo-fi lovers Focusbird (myspace.com/focusbird), Agent Ribbons (myspace.com/agentribbons), and The Pom Poms (myspace.com/thepompomsmusic). Incorporating everything from flutes and glockenspiels to ukuleles, Focusbird’s dreamlike tunes call to mind a more whimsical version of ’60s icon Nico. Fellow players Agent Ribbons call on equally time-stamped influences to create their signature baroque pop tunes. Think girlie burlesque vocals meet Fiona Apple’s anguish, with a little bit of Broadway mixed in for good measure. Be sure to check them out before they venture down to South by Southwest later this month. The show is open to all ages, and SBDIY runs on voluntary donations from showgoers. Visit myspace.com/sbdiy for info and upcoming shows.
THEY’RE BAAA-AACK: And for a sonic flashback from not so long ago, please direct your attention to Velvet Jones (423 State St.) this Thursday and Friday. On March 5, the State Street staple will play host to Orange County’s Rx Bandits. The club will follow up that ’90s ska punk retrospective with Mojo Wire the next night, led by none other than ex-Save Ferris frontlady Monique Powell. For those in need of a refresher course, Powell provided the vocal prowess behind the ubiquitous ska-tinged cover of Dexys Midnight Runners‘ “Come On Eileen.” She also showed up onscreen with Save Ferris in the 1999 teen dramedy, 10 Things I Hate About You.
As for Mojo Wire’s driving sound, Powell’s voice is definitely still a force to be reckoned with. But don’t go thinking she’s going to be skanking through the night come Friday-the band is way more hard rockin’ than Powell’s previous outfit. Mojo Wire will perform with Them Terribles (myspace.com/themterribles) and Martyrs (myspace.com/sbmartyrs) as part of KJEE’s Phat J‘s birthday bash. The show starts at 10 p.m. Call 965-6776 or visit velvet-jones.com for details.