Published Feb 20, 2015There's a serene simplicity underlying Matthew Swann's debut album as Astral Swans, something like an antithesis to maximalist tendencies that tend to engulf certain modern releases. No stranger to excess, as demonstrated by his collaborative work with previous outfits such as Extra Happy Ghost!!! and Hot Little Rocket, Swann does well paring things down here to concentrate on one of this album's strongest elements: his vocals.
The arrangements are far from being an afterthought, but they work better when supporting Swann's lyrics and plaintive timbre instead of overshadowing them, as they do at times on "My Conscience Don't Work In The New World." But those are minor squabbles, as All My Favorite Singers Are Willie Nelson is nothing if not coherent, charming and completely focused.
Distortion-laden "Attention," which gives the impression of unintentional disarray with its at-times aggressive layers of violin and guitar strumming, still feels at home within this collection of psychedelic folk. "Barely hanging by a thread, the little pieces of my head," Swann moans on "September" before launching into a repeated chant of "They lie when they tell ya," which dissolves into whimsical whistling.
The album highlights are those that keep things simple and straightforward: the offbeat organ-tinged "Let Their Faces All Blur Out," or fuzzy first single "Beginning Of The End." It's safe to say that Swann has never felt more at home, or at ease, than on this debut solo record. (Madic)