The echo maker
Following his death in July, Richard Swift’s final album is a tough listen
It is impossible to listen to The Hex by Richard Swift, who died in July aged 41 from causes related to alcohol, without thinking about his imminent death, and wondering if he was too. The California-born singer, songwriter and producer, whose numerous solo records may not have had the same recognition of some of the artists he worked with — The Black Keys, Pretenders, The Shins — but his music was beloved by fellow musicians and so was he. Dave Depper of Death Cab for Cutie called him “the most talented person I’ve ever met.” The Hex showcases the range of Swift’s artistry, from the spooky falsetto of the opening title track, to the watery-eyed ragtime of “Dirty Jim”, filled with a weary sadness despite its jaunty swing, to the more experimental “Kensington!” on which Swift’s spoken baritone has the playful menace of Tom Waits or Iggy Pop. Final track “Sept20” is the toughest to listen to. The date is his wedding anniversary — it would have been his 21st this year — and in the gentle piano ballad he both makes promises of “trying not to drink from a poison well”, while accepting he is slipping away. “When I go, I go out alone”, he sings. One can only hope that’s not how he felt in the end.
The Hex (Secretly Canadian) is available to download now; physical release on 7 December