Today’s Cool Album of the Day (#949 in the Series) is Roxy Swain, Restless Hearts
Restless Hearts, the second record from local Chicago favorites Roxy Swain, is about as perfectly crafted a set of songs as your ears will enjoy all year. With influences that seem to float from Fleetwood Mac to Emmy Lou Harris, with a hint of daisy-duke era Linda Ronstadt thrown in for good measure, Ms. Swain, the front-woman for the group, with her back of the barroom pipes, slight Americana warble, and abundance of Indie Rock-Chick swagger could be the love child of Chrissie Hynde and Lucinda Williams.
There is definitely some palate cleansing retro fairy dust that is sprinkled throughout this highly addictive album starting with “Tonight,” a sunshine pop Bangles worthy effort that showcases Roxy’s elastic vocal range, and introduces the listener to a level of songwriting that is at once mature and seductive at the same time, in a theater of the mind sort of way.
“Constellations Fell,” the second track on the album, would fit in quite nicely on any Lucinda Williams album, and “Impossible Wait” has a certain Aimee Mann circa “Voices Carry” vibe. The contrast of the new and old, retro versus Indie Rock, and overall freshness of the sound gives the record a sit back and enjoy it sort of appeal especially on songs like “Tidal Wave Away,” a track that will put you in that pleasant sweet spot you haven’t experienced since your drug of choice was illegal.
A little bit of sameness does creep into the color scheme mid-album, but the jams start to get kicked out again rather quickly on “Sad,” a sunshine Jangle-Pop song that would have fit in quite nicely on Sheryl Crow’s Tuesday Night Music Club album, and will make you smile while at the same time cause you to wonder why every band these days can’t make songs this good.
The real jaw-dropping moment here comes on “Salt and Smoke.” The song will remind you of the time you were nursing a break-up and a beer in that Tom Waits sort of bar somewhere in the bowels of downtown when the second best looking girl in the place inched her bar stool closer to yours, and with purpose slid a Lone Star beer with a chaser in your general direction. This is that sort of Voodoo-Noir tune that would have fit in perfectly on an episode of True Detective, Trueblood, or even in the Selma Hayak dance scene in the movie From Dusk ‘Till Dawn. This song is that opus-like, and that good, and while it does show off the impressive vocal range of the singer, it also demonstrates the extreme versatility of the band that can go from Big Star to My Morning Jacket with a touch of Tom Waits at the blink of a guitar pick.
The closing acts on the record, starting with the largely instrumental and lovely “Audience with the Queen,” and followed up by “Lexington East,” represent two sterling book-closing examples of the “grow on you” sort of appeal inherent in this release, and clearly demonstrates the care that was taken in the studio to create a cohesive set of songs. The vocals were carefully modulated to make sure that they never over-power the rest of the band, the guitar work, jangle rock in places, and intricate in others, is first-rate, with an overall production value shows a maturity far beyond a group that is only two albums old.
Roxy Swain is a band that should come off your radar and be placed on repeat play in your listening universe. They have a lot to live up to, and it will be very interesting to see what is around the corner for what should be your new favorite band.
— Walt Falconer – Houston, Texas