Richard Swift / Pink Mountaintops

SXSW live shot

Richard Swift / Pink Mountaintops

Emo's Annex, Saturday, March 18

Richard Swift just doesn't happen anymore. There are no more piano troubadours that meet the spontaneity and passion of Tom Waits. There are no more downtrodden musicians who write lyrics that actually mean something. Richard Swift, therefore, is an anomaly. "I am New York," the afro'd Los Angelean croons on "The Novelist," the opening glorification off last year's debut The Richard Swift Collection Vol. 1. Animated and vibrating at the helm of his electric baby grand, Swift led his band of misfits, the Sons of National Freedom, through modern ballads and systematic breakdowns. Swift's tunes came full force, climaxing in a combination of decades unlike anything the dance revolution has experienced: from Al Jolson to Nick Cave in a measure, to the Beatles and Nick Drake in a heartache. Swift is a pissed off carney working the Ferris wheel atop some random boardwalk: "Tonight is gonna be a lovely night, with everybody looking oh so nice, and I wish that I was never born." Second-to-last celebration "The Atlantic Ocean" is the perfect segue to Jagjaguwar's less serious Pink Mountaintops, who fixed a Sixties smorgasbord of tambourine and joy – no war songs here, just extravagance. Steve McBean's hippie clan is an image of collective, all smiles, bounce, and hair. Yet where Devendra Banhart goes south with patronizing glee, McBean's Toronto troupe brings everyone along for the ride on the Axis of Evol. Just another notch on the Secretly Canadian/Jagjaguwar bedpost.

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