CD Review – Swell “Whenever You’re Ready”

Whenever You’re Ready
Beggars Banquet

Whenever You’re Ready is the latest release from Swell, a band of indie rockers from San Francisco.

Swell released its first album in 1990 and has kept a small following among college students and indie rock fans ever since, while staying relatively under the radar.

Although there have been several lineup changes, the current Swell album is a creation of the band’s two original members, guitarist/vocalist David Freel and drummer Sean Kirkpatrick.

The cover of the album, a painting by Kirkpatrick of railroad tracks in the middle of a deserted landscape, portrays the vibe of this album well.

Whenever You’re Ready is mellow, pensive music that is a good listen for driving on a long, lonely stretch of highway. The cover is also appropriate because travel is a main theme in the album’s music.

The first sound heard on the record is a train whistle, and locomotive sounds reoccur throughout the album.

While Whenever is low-key and most songs have acoustic guitar as the primary instrument, these acoustic songs have enough special touches to make them all unique.

“In the Morning” features a graceful violin, and other tunes feature the occasional electronic element brought in non-obtrusively.

To further add to the diversity of the album, many of the songs are slow and relaxed.

“Say Goodbye,” on the other hand, is an up-tempo song that, despite mumbles and lazy vocals, still manages to be energetic and almost motivational.

When lead singer David Freel sings, “Good bye my monsters/ I know I’ll miss you/ We had our moments/ It don’t seem right/ Say goodbye/ With innocence/ Say goodbye/ With confidence/ Say goodbye,” the lyrics can be related as easily to a failed relationship as to a general need for life changes.

The songs that stray from the acoustic mold fit in well with the album.

The second track, “Next to Nothing,” has an electric guitar solo and the lyrics, “I tried faith/ Just to see how it looked next to nothing.”

The only clunker on this album is the track “So Easy, So Cool,” which deviates from the fresh style Swell created for this album.

It actually sounds more in the vein of the Goo Goo Dolls. The rest of the songs don’t sound quite like anything on today’s mainstream radio, and that in itself is a treat.

The album has plenty of references to the outdoors (especially to looking up at the stars), but there are also lyrics combining the themes of nature and travel.

On “Word Gifts,” Freel sings “Fall asleep in the desert/ Wake up deep in the snow.” One album track, “Sun (reprise),” is an instrumental that conveys this feeling without lyrics, and accents the train sounds to evocative effect.

Whenever You’re Ready is a lovely travel soundtrack. The tranquility of this album means it’s not the most exciting record out right now, but fans of mellow and thoughtful indie rock should find this venture refreshing and right up their alley.