Bedhead Melodies #1: The Swell Season- “In These Arms” (2009)

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Glen Hansard is the frontman, singer and songwriter for the legendary Irish rock band The Frames. Equipped with a remarkable ear for melody and a powerful, soulful voice, Hansard has led The Frames through over 20 years of music that oscillates between chest-thumping guitar anthems to quiet, intimate, heartbreaking folk songs.

The Swell Season is Hansard’s collaboration with Czech pianist and singer Markéta Irglová. Together, they had a smash hit with “Falling Slowly”, the theme for the indie Irish film “Once”, and won an Academy Award for their work. Their songs trend towards the folkier side of Hansard’s musical spectrum, with most being acoustic-based, rootsy and often very quiet. They should be in your radar. They probably already are, albeit peripherally.

“In These Arms” is the third track off their third album, “Strict Joy”. A hushed, delicate and desperately sad plea of a song, this gorgeous slice of music is sung almost as quietly as it is strummed, punctuated by Irglová’s piano arpeggios atop a bed of the quietest string arrangement this side of John Cage’s “4’33”. The melodically austere verses unfurl into an absolutely stunning chorus, sliding in and out of F#m, all solemn grandiosity and genuine sentiment. It builds into a layered and melodically rich chorus, before winding down in an elegant minor chord. The song is brief, as brief as it should be, as brief as those little sincerity blasts are supposed to be; before you compose yourself, shrug it off and go back to feigning stoicism.

This is the first in a series of entries I’m calling “Bedhead Melodies”, about songs I happen to stumble upon and find myself captured by in the late hours of the night. Most of them will be very quiet. Most of them will feature strings and/or reverb. Most of them will have me weeping drunkenly within the first two minutes. You have been warned.

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