Richard Swift – The Hex

Richard Swift's final album before his untimely passing, The Hex offers a fitting moment of closure for a supremely talented songwriter

Album Review by Max Sefton | 17 Dec 2018
  • Richard Swift – The Hex
Album title: The Hex
Artist: Richard Swift
Label: Secretly Canadian
Release date: 21 Sep / 7 Dec (physical)

When 41-year-old singer-songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and producer Richard Swift passed away earlier this year, he already had one final record in the bag. A few months later it finally revealed itself to the world – gaining a physical release on 7 December – and, as befits Swift’s roving tastes, his final statement cuts a broad swathe, taking in soul, pop and psychedelia across its 11 ambitious tracks.

The psychedelic soup of The Hex opens the album, with an array of mysterious clicks and rattles augmenting stately strings. Broken Finger Blues feels more like a statement of intent, with woozy choral voices reminiscent of Grizzly Bear and questing effects-laden guitar lines that fall like sunbeams.

Having spent much of the last decade working with the likes of Damien Jurado, The Black Keys and The Shins, Swift has plenty of experience across a wide range of genres, and on The Hex he seems determined to try them all out for himself. 

Selfishmath is a weird and winding horror movie jam, while Wendy is a sweet homage to Swift’s deceased mother, presented as a dark through-the-looking-glass reflection of 60s doo-wop, complete with 'da doo ron ron' refrains, that nevertheless finds the singer admitting he carries the burden heavily on his shoulders.

The latter half of The Hex flits between moods swiftly. Sister Song rolls out choral coos and guitar flourishes reminiscent of a spaghetti western, while HZLWD is a short, almost baroque, instrumental that pays tribute to pop pioneer Lee Hazelwood, and Kensington! is a quirky spoken word tale of explorers going over the edge of the world that brings to mind Captain Beefheart.

The Hex closes with Sept20, a sparse piano ballad with touches of Elliott Smith, that finds Swift intoning 'All the angels sing que sera sera' as he sails serenely out into the night. There’s not been a more fitting moment of closure since Johnny Cash closed the piano lid at the end of the Hurt video. A fine songwriter has bid goodnight.

Listen to: Broken Finger Blues, Wendy, Sept20