Prince sitting in on the Plastic Ono Band

The Atlantic Ocean
is set to further the success of 2007’s release Dressed Up For the Letdown and propel Richard Swift into the populist public arena. With a creative lineage traceable to 18th century writer, Jonathan Swift, Richard has clearly inherited the artistic gene, writing inventive music and insightful lyrics.

Music-myth has it that Swift started his career at age 14, playing in Quaker churches. Loosely true, of this experience Swift says: “I wasn’t playing there regularly, but that’s the first time I was exposed to playing music live. It was great because I got over typical stage fright, and by the time I actually started playing songs that I had written, I felt natural and at home playing music.”

Completely self-taught, Swift says: “I’ve never had any training or lessons.” He is proficient in a cornucopia of instruments and is also a talented producer, favouring analogue over digital. On writing and production, he comments: “They kind of go hand in hand, I don’t think about one more than the other.” The Atlantic Ocean showcases Swift’s dexterity with piano, drums, bass, banjo and various 1980s synthesisers to create an album that manages to be that intangible thing — both of the moment yet timeless. Swift describes the sound of The Atlantic Ocean as “Prince sitting in on the Plastic Ono Band. It has the minimal feel of that Plastic Ono record with strange, squirly synthesisers on top.”

Title track, The Atlantic Ocean, is an effervescent introduction to the album, featuring dramatic piano and big, bouncy pop beats. This track was one of many songs written at a time when Swift was preoccupied with everything oceanic. “I was having a lot of dreams about the ocean. This theme I’m still trying to figure out, that came out of my subconscious.”

Album highlight, The Ballad of Old What’s His Name, features high-profile collaborations with Mark Ronson, Sean Lennon and Ryan Adams. On co-producing with Ronson, Swift remarks: “That song was the first time I’d ever worked with another producer. Ronson and I thought if we’re ever going to do it, we may as well go big with it.” Featuring a wealth of instruments, the many layers of this song create a jazzy, big-band epic that remains clearly directed by Swift despite the collaborations.

Perhaps saving the best until last, Lady Luck is down-tempo, effortlessly warm soul punctuated by Swift’s distinctive falsetto appealing for chance to shine a light. Lady Luck almost didn’t make it onto the album, “I wasn’t even going to include it. It’s kind of a batch of another record that I’ve recorded, but it works because I think sonically it kind of gives you a bit of a view into the sound of the next thing I’m working on.”

With the video for Lady Luck just finished, a burgeoning interest in short film and documentary indicates a future outlet for Swift’s creativity. With film “something I’m definitely interested in doing further down the line”, Swift is adamant that “anything I do is really good and stands on its own, because I know it’s such a terrible cliché of actors to be singers and singers thinking they are filmmakers.”

The Atlantic Ocean was available from April 2009 on Secretly Canadian.

Samantha Cracknell