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If the Point Is Sharp and the Arrow Is Swift...

By Lizz Kannenberg in Arts & Entertainment on Apr 24, 2007 3:10PM


Richard Swift is feeling low. "But Chicagoist, he is a singer-songwriter on an indie label." Point taken, but the real story here isn’t Swift’s state of mind or how many pages of palpable insecurities he can fill in one of those black-and-white spotted composition books – it’s the style and grace with which he yanks a real showstopper out of a sound that could easily teeter on the brink of cliché. His 2007 release, Dressed Up for the Letdown, is a complicated thinker’s take on the pop format, with perfectly crafted tunes wrapping the “life is a drag” themes in a curious veil of optimism that is hard to put a finger on – but essential to Swift’s persona as the quintessential hopeless, yet hopeful, romantic.

The other loose theme that differentiates Swift from so many of the bummed-out-dude-with-guitar acts traipsing our fine land today is a lyrical exploration of what it means to seek, find, and finally debunk the supposed glory of the public spotlight. So we have a guy, so wholly obsessed with his own shortcomings as to write an album about it, doing his darndest to make his audience believe in the self-described “inadequate” music he’s created enough to get them to buy the record. The catch-22 is that should he succeed, his claims of insufficiency are moot and he’s back at the proverbial drawing board. Sound complicated? It is, but Swift brings this achingly personal dilemma to life with an equally intricate, positively lush (and at times even rollicking) arrangements. Dressed Up for the Letdown is another solid release from the consistent Secretly Canadian roster, a label whose bands have a propensity to pair strong studio efforts with outstanding live shows. Swift is no exception, bringing his introspective stories to life with quirky panache and believable honesty.

Don’t lollygag over American Idol tonight, as Brooklyn’s White Rabbits and Chicago's own All Smiles (a.k.a. Jim Fairchild from Grandaddy) make for a killer support bill. With their beat-driven, danceable rock, White Rabbits are one of those rare bands who have seen a real boost in profile following several stellar shows at SXSW. Chicagoist took the recommendation of a co-worker and checked them out at a loft party in Lakeview last month, and amidst the keg beer and hipsterati covering the floor, we found a tight and polished band with an endearing style more than a bit of flair. Through All Smiles, Fairchild finally steps into a leading role after Grandaddy and chops off a sweet piece of self-effacing, strummy pop pie.

Richard Swift, White Rabbits and All Smiles play Schubas tonight. Music at 9:00 p.m., tickets are $10.