Taking a stripped back approach to his songs of honesty and metaphor, Astral Swans (Matthew Swann) is quietly establishing himself as a solo artist with his robust songwriting. His debut LP, All My Favourite Singers Are Willie Nelson, is the first release on Dan Mangan’s boutique label, Madic Records – an endorsement in itself. Swann blends elements of folk, noise, and indie rock to create an album that engages instead of providing a passive listen.
The album begins with blunt vocals over sparse guitar on “There Are Ways To Get What You Want,” the short introduction to the more rhythmic track that follows, “Beginning Of The End.” “Let Their Faces All Blur Out” is an understated jam, as seems to be a speciality of Astral Swans. “Cross your fingers, that you are made for luck,” wishes Swann. There’s a surprising amount of optimism in this song.
One of the highlights on the album is “What Calms You Down, Freaks Me Out.” It is relatively slow with minimal guitar work – and ample room for harmonies, present in the refrain, “We’re like smoke, we’re like blackouts.” Next is “You Carry A Sickness,” a percussive tune with haunting harmonies juxtaposed by a wavering, playful synth line. “September” evokes a similar sound to that of fellow Calgarian, Chad VanGaalen, reverberating vocals and all. “Attention” features experimental strings that serve to add to the off-kilter nature of the song.
Astral Swans displays a multifaceted sound on All My Favourite Singers Are Willie Nelson, the album full of embellished instrumental passages that appear deceptively simple. Matthew Swann’s lyrics carry the heavy weight of truth, causing listeners to face up and consider the state of their own lives.
All My Favourite Singers Are Willie Nelson is available on February 24th via Madic Records.
Top Tracks: “Attention,” “Let Their Faces All Blur Out”
Rating: Strong Hoot (Good) + *swoop*