REVIEWS & ARTICLES

ANOTHER ANOTHER Press

ANOTHER ANOTHER
AN IN-DEPTH TRACK-BY-TRACK ALBUM ANALYSIS WITH KURT SWINGHAMMER

By Aaron Badgley for Spill Magazine , May 11, 2017

Kurt Swinghammer is set to release his first full length album since 2011’s Turpentine Wind.  And a new release from Mr. Swinghammer is always cause for celebration.  Another Another is, an album, according to Kurt, “about my mom dying and my way of responding to Brian Eno’s Another Green World .  Eno is one of my favourite artists and I never left that album behind.  So the album, while not an overt tribute, is an homage to Another Green World.  In fact I structured all my songs on the chord changes of two songs on Eno’s album.  Using jazz techniques and skills I learned from writing film music, I developed variations of those chord changes and added different melodies.”

The result is a stunning album.  Beautiful, original, sentimental and a wonderful listening experience.  The album also has the odd characteristic of sounding old, not retro, but vintage, while sounding very current, if not ahead of its time.

“I recorded the album in 2012 in Calgary.  I was asked to be the first ‘ NMC Astral Radio Artist in Residence’ at the National Music Centre’ in Calgary.  They have this world renowned synth, electronic musical instrument collection.  They also have over 500 pianos, harpsichords, and even the obscure Novachord, the first polyphonic synthesizer.  They also have a 1928 Theremin.  I was given a chance to use these instruments, and record. I could keep it vintage.   So I called Michael Phillip Wojewoda, who produced the Another Another and tracked 35 instruments, took this back to Toronto so I could flesh it out with vocals and guitar.”

Swinghammer plays all the instruments on the album.

Kurt very kindly agreed to go through all the songs, track by track to discuss each of these very personal songs.

“Dear Old Soul”.  “It’s about my mom, describing her day.  She loved gardening, so the last verse is about gardening.  The song takes you through the process of the death of parents, help to come to terms with it.  It brought up a lot of stuff, and writing and art to help through that process” The front sleeve of the new album is a painting of his mother by Swinghammer, who is known as a visual artists as much as a recording artist.

“Another Another Green World”.  “Some of the lyrics are very personal.  I flipped them upside down to disguise them.  The title refers to Eno’s album, but also my mother’s love of gardening, another green world.  There is this connection between my mother and Eno.  I always listened to a lot of music when I was at home, play tons of records, and the only record my mother commented on was Music For Airports by Eno.  You know, she asked ‘what is that?”  Only time.  Then when my father died I played it at the funeral, and again, after the funeral she asked me, what was that music you were playing?’  Finally, when she was dying, I played that album, she died to Music For Airports.  So there is this connection between Eno and my mom.”

“She Needed More Loops”. “ Again, a play on words.  Loop based music, like Eno, and handwriting analysis.  You know,  my mother’s handwriting was very formal, that was her era.  But the theory is the loop in your handwriting is indication of sexual satisfaction.  It would seem my mother was repressed.  This song is a bit of tongue in cheek.”

“Art Thief”.  “For the cover of the album, I lifted two visuals from Eno covers.  So this song is addressing the idea nicing from another artist.”

“Jack Layton And Grace Appleton”.  Grace Appleton is Kurt’s mother’s name.  “Really the song is the story as it happened.  My mother was in the last chapter of her life, we were going to see her, then we saw on the news that Jack Layton had died.  I got to know Jack, and I did some visuals for his campaigns.  He used to live behind The Bamboo Club, and he used to come and see bands on Queen.  So I got to know him.  Then my mother died the same day.  Just the juxtaposition of someone known passing away and this unknown lady dying.”

“Another”.  A cinematic jump cut, an expression of my mom’s life.  Before she was married, maybe the peak of her life, going out, listening to music, being young, before I came along and ruined it all.  Before she became a housewife and mother.”

“Song About An Instrumental”.  The title says it all.  It just reminds me of buying the British import of Music For Airports.”

“Waltz For Wilf”. ”Wilf was my mother’s older brother.  He was a lovely character who lived in rural area of the province, a farmer.  She was calling his name as she died.”

“Blues For Green”.  “A reference to a green world.  A  song about mourning the loss of life but also the loss of ecology, a world that is dying.  A hope for and need for healing the world.”

“Pickering”.  “The town my mom was born in, and where her dad had a farm.  Just acknowledging her roots.”

“1919”.  The year she was born, and the repetition of 19 is like Another Another.”

“The Random House”.  “I consulted the Random House Thesaurus for the word ‘Grace”, my mom’s name.  I took all the words, and those words form the lyrics of the song.  All the other words for ‘grace’.  The song begins and ends with ‘love’.  After my mom died, we had a son, and the name we settled on was Ray, which we later found means ‘grace’ in Celtic.”

And with that our conversation winds to an end.  A fascinating look into a remarkable album.  An album that is honest and without a doubt one of the best albums released this year.  From the sleeve to the music in the sleeve, Kurt Swinghammer has produced another piece of art that sits comfortably with his work, but it also shows continued growth of this talented artist.

Kurt Swinghammer Releases A Heartfelt Music Video For “Jack Layton and Grace Appleton”

Kayla Carmichael for Audible Addixion May 5 2017

On the same day, two important figures in Kurt Swinghammer’s life passed away. If you’ve ever experienced the tragedy of losing someone influential in your world, you know the heavy feelings that come along with it. But as much as the significance in loss was, the significance is gain was the same. Swinghammer was inspired by the personal experience to write.

What came about was the first piece in an eventual record. The song: “Jack Layton and Grace Appleton”. Jack Layton, the leader of Canada’s New Democratic Party and his passing, was announced to the artist by newscast early one morning. Grace Appleton was passed that afternoon, and is Swinghammer’s mother.

An interesting element of the song is that the lyrics clearly drive the song. They illustrate what happened, who Jack Layton and Grace Appleton were, their careers, and cleverly includes a hook that mentions the two were never mentioned together, but have a somber connection. The music video includes an animation of 1200 hand drawn frames by Swinghammer and is really quite moving.

In 2011, Swinghammer was invited to be the first Artist in Residence at the National Music Center in Calgary, Alberta, in which he received access to their world-renowned collection of synthesizers. The single features a synthesizer from 1952, and part of the track’s exotic sound is because of the unique synth.

One of the synthesizers was associated with composer Brian Eno. Eno’s “Music for Airports” was the only album Swinghammer played for his mother while she was in care up until her final days, and was an important aesthetically inspiration to reflect on her life. The album art features a visual reference to Eno’s “Another Green World”, as well as a portrait of Appleton. “Another Another” is the record, Swinghammer’s 13th indie release, anticipated May 12th.

Lori Cullen’s Sexsmith Swinghammer Songs Press

LORI CULLEN WITH SEXSMITH SWINGHAMMER SONGS

FEBRUARY 7, 2017

“How strange is this life?”

Oh, what joy it is to feel physical pleasure while listening to an album. Lori Cullen’s Sexsmith Swinghammer Songs is an audiophile’s dream, and this wonderful, unexpected jazz/folk album has sneaked its way into contention for one of the best albums of the year.

Sonically, it sits comfortably among Getz and Gilberto, Joni Mitchell, and Nick Drake, and is the closest thing to perfect production you can find all year, with richly textured instrumentation vibrant enough to hit your solar plexus but restrained enough to bring serenity. The silence sparkles, mixing the instruments in at just the right volume, and floating you up on good vibes.

Which is to say nothing of the subtle, nuanced, and rich compositions by Ron Sexsmith and Kurt Swinghammer, written especially for Cullen. The keyboards are sweet and delicate; the bass rumbles like a playful uncle; the guitar holds the line with bright, compelling, chord changes. The minute movements, one-note chord changes, and tiny subliminal movements that barely register consciously take on the weight of revelation. Once you reach the final track, you’ve taken a journey, winding and complicated, without ever knowing you took a step off the path.

She turns major chords to diminished on a dime, and the moments of joy and sorrow in the lyrics are done with hairpin precision.

Above it all is Cullen herself: her voice–like this album–hides its power within the gentle, flowing compositions. The moments of breathiness suggest the moments of power. On tracks like “Strange is this Life,” you get the full range of her abilities, from barely voiced lullaby to full-strength mezzo-soprano. She turns major chords to diminished on a dime, and the moments of joy and sorrow in the lyrics are done with hairpin precision. At no point do the overtly optimistic turns on tracks such as “New Love” feel at odds with the overtly pessimistic “Face of Emily,” or “Beginners Luck.” Each song is necessary, stays as long as it needs to, then, waves goodbye.

For me, listening to this record is like watching the sunset cross your lover’s face as it falls into night, on the beach. It’s that specific shade of orange too beautiful for daytime, touched just-so with gold and shadow that magnifies in the presence of the face it falls onto: balanced, beautiful, and slightly melancholy. The only imperfections are the last few tracks, which emotionally stutter just a little. Unfortunately, the previous balance achieved compounds the noticeability; they are not bad, but they do not shine quite as bright. But goddamn, it feels nice to unabashedly enjoy an album for once.

Until I ride on carousels of summertime

9,876 out of 10,000 Rawckus Kung Fu Throwing Stars

R2 Magazine Review by Ian Taylor, Jan 19, 2017

The Whole Note review by Lesley Mitchell-Clarke, Nov 28, 2016

Sexsmith Swinghammer Songs
Lori Cullen
True North Records TRD618
(loricullen.com)

Contemporary jazz/pop vocalist Lori Cullen’s latest release is an appealing and innovative project that is the result of an inspired collaboration between Cullen herself and two noted musicians – composer/guitarist Kurt Swinghammer and composer/lyricist Ron Sexsmith. It was Sexsmith who first suggested to Swinghammer that they write an album together specifically tailored for Cullen. The 12 tracks on the CD all feature lyrics by Sexsmith and are rife with Swinghammer’s carefully placed stylistic elements of the artists who defined the fertile pop eras of the 1960s and 1970s, including tips of the hat to Burt Bacharach, Jimmy Webb and Antonio Carlos Jobim.

Produced by bassist Maury Lafoy (who appears on the project), the musicians also include drummer Mark Mariash, keyboardist Robbie Grunwald and Swinghammer on guitar. Although Fender Rhodes and guitar are central to the instrumentation, the compelling, acoustic arrangements by Swinghammer also involve an array of diverse instrumental contributions, including finely crafted enhancements on trumpet, trombone, oboe, clarinet, vibraphone, marimba, English horn, recorder and more.

Cullen’s angelic voice wraps itself around each sumptuous melodic line and every composition has been constructed to highlight her superb, crystalline vocal instrument and intuitive knack for delivering frank emotional content and a quirky lyric. Memorable tracks include the gently swinging and faintly ironic The Face of Emily, which features a lush vocal arrangement, and the groovy, lighter-than-air bossa nova, New Love. A true gem is the heartrending duet between Cullen and Sexsmith, Off Somewhere.

This thoroughly pleasing and unabashedly romantic recording is a triumph for all three of these gifted artists and a stunning example of creative, musical symbiosis.

Uncut Review by Gavin Martin Jan 2017 8/10

Delirious Canadian combo centred on jazz chanteuse and national treasure

Justly lauded as one of her generation’s purest voices, Cullen’s scale-swooning smoothness and jazzy agility here prove the perfect foil for two celebrated fellow countrymen fans. The landscape of Jobim/Bacharach pop is reimagined with Ron Sexsmith’s ever curious and naturally psychedelic lyrics on “Strange Is The Life”, along with the off-kilter soulfulness of inspired arrangements by Cullen’s husband, the excellently named Kurt Swinghammer. The cherry on the cake could be Ron and Lori’s “Off Somewhere”, but everywhere here these sensual, swinging and sashaying songs provide pleasure-centre-assailing treats for any season.

CD Review by Kevin Bryan for Messenger UK, Dec 12 2016

Lori Cullen, “Sexsmith Swinghammer Songs” (True North Records)- This distinctive offering finds Canadian vocalist Lori Cullen applying her pure and unaffected tones to a selection of songs penned by the writing duo of Kurt Swinghammer and Ron Sexsmith. The finished product represents a conscious throwback to the work of similarly gifted creative figures from the sixties such as Burt Bacharach and Antonio Carlos Jobim, and Sexsmith himself duets with Lori on one of the album’s stand-out tracks, “Off Somewhere.”

Review: Michael Barclay – Waterloo Region Record, Nov 25, 2016

Fans of Ron Sexsmith and Kurt Swinghammer, his long-time friend and frequent guitarist—the two once covered each other’s songs in a project called Sexhammer—will know that they share a love of the songwriting master of Burt Bacharach and the bossa nova pioneer Antônio Carlos Jobim. Sexsmith is also a big fan of Swinghammer’s wife, Lori Cullen, who has six previous albums to her name. Ergo, Sexhammer reunited to write a full album for Cullen, one that’s a full-on tribute to the breezy, sophisticated pop of their heroes. The instrumentation is perfect: plenty of nylon guitar, trombones, Rhodes piano, the most featherweight percussion, and the occasional clarinet or oboe to further remove it from any modern pop norms. Mia Sheard and Jennifer Foster chime in on backing vocals. It adds up to a series of love letters between incredibly accomplished musicians: both between friends and between generations.

REVIEW: Kerry Doole – Exclaim, RATING: 8 out of 10. Oct 26, 2016

Sexsmith Swinghammer Songs, the new release from acclaimed pop/jazz chanteuse Lori Cullen, is a collaboration between three formidable talents. She sings, husband Kurt Swinghammer composed and arranged the music and Ron Sexsmith wrote all the lyrics. Longtime friends Sexsmith and Swinghammer used to work together (as Sexhammer!), and their clear empathy shines through in these well-crafted compositions.

Sexsmith and Cullen combine for a charming duet on “Off Somewhere,” and the album is produced with clarity by Maury Lafoy. He also plays, alongside Swinghammer and such notables as Robbie Grunwald and Mark Mariash. Horns are used in discreet yet effective fashion, adding atmosphere to the gently paced material. Cullen’s subtle yet warm delivery proves a perfect delivery vehicle for the songs, some of which have a gentle bossa flavour.

Most of the compositions clock in at three minutes or less, a length that suits these concise portraits that often focus on the redemptive power of love (“Love’s gone and chased this shadow from me,” goes “New Love”) and the delights of family (“Then There Were Three,” “Miracle Home”). Sexsmith Swinghammer Songs is an understated but tasty treat.

Lori Cullen with Ron Sexsmith: Off Somewhere

By Adam Carter, CBC News Posted: Nov 19, 2016 11:00 AM ET

This track from Lori Cullen and Ron Sexsmith just feels timeless. It has a bit of a Tony Bennett-like quality, but still manages to feel contemporary at the same time. I’m honestly blown away by the vocal performances here.

Top 100 Canadian Singles Blog by Bob Mersereau Thursday, Nov 10, 2016

MUSIC REVIEW OF THE DAY: LORI CULLEN – SEXSMITH SWINGHAMMER SONGS

It must have been a no-brainer for Cullen to take up her friend Ron Sexsmith’s suggestion that he and Kurt Swinghammer write all-new songs for her to record. Not only were they all friends, they’re all on the A-list of Toronto talent. So we have the beautiful jazz-folk vocalist performing 12 songs featuring Sexsmith’s words and Swinghammer’s compositions.

The writers weren’t holding back on their A-list material or ideas at all. Sexsmith comes through with some of his killer images and lines. Miracle Home offers up “We turned a house of cards into a miracle home,” while “Some Part Of Me” includes “I’m tired of eyes that give it all away/Kill the surprise of living each day.” Opening track The Face Of Emily is a classic bit of Sexsmith writing, the lines on a stranger’s face meaning another sad story as a woman grows older, unknown to most. Heck, he even says it in the words, “It’s a lonely world.” But several songs here are about the celebration of love and family, including Miracle Home, New Love and Then There Were Three. More proof he’s not the gloomy Gus he gets labelled far too often.

Swinghammer responded to the project by placing the songs in a 60s pop world, with lots of Bacharach and bits of Jobim. There are lots of electric keyboards and moody horns and woodwinds, clarinet and fluegelhorn parts, plus vibes and marimba to add ringing percussion. It’s far away from the rock combo; instead it’s the pop orchestra. Cullen’s voice is a wonder, never showy or dominate but simply lovely, the sound of love and joy and warmth. This week especially, what the world needs now…

Lori Cullen
Sexsmith Swinghammer Songs

By Darryl Sterdan, Toronto Sun, Friday 11, 2016

How many Canadians does it take to make a Lori Cullen album? At least three: Kurt Swinghammer to write winsome ’60-style jazz-pop tunes reminiscent of everyone from Jobim to Bacharach; Ron Sexsmith to contribute lyrics that are every bit as romantically sunny as these melodies; and vocalist Cullen to croon them sweetly and sincerely. A triple treat.

RATING: 3.5 (out of 5)