Spry and creatively unmoored, Richard Swift’s The Atlantic Ocean breathes life into boilerplate piano-man song structures, with the artist, though stationed mostly behind the ivories, peppering his songs with a joyful collusion of other elements. Swift’s expansiveness is evident from the opening title track, which outfits its bouncy piano with effects and competing synth lines running on parallel tracks. The songs overflow with horns and electronic touches, but remain grounded in standard jaunty piano arrangements. Sometimes these touches are small, like the oscillating synth lines that elevate the piano shuffle of “Song for Milton Feher,” but their effects are unmistakable, granting otherwise familiar compositions an air of complex whimsy. Yet for all the restiveness exposed by the music, these songs suffer from a general malaise, a surfeit of non-catchy circling vocal selections that hinge on unsatisfying lyrical premises. Swift’s voice remains lively throughout, but his lyrics seem to settle where his music soars, forcing the songs down into repetitive ruts. Lines like “I will listen to your every word” on “Feher” and “Everyone knows when they’re gonna die” on “R.I.P.” echo like half-assed mantras, stalling the creative buildup and killing any previously earned momentum. But Swift’s songs are otherwise too lively to be entirely brought down by these bland moments, espousing a generally sunny, intelligent feel and brimming with creative imagination. Despite sometimes dissolving into monotony, the mood remains light, and Swift’s playfulness, evidenced by moments like the falsetto opening of “Lady Luck,” keeps things in check.
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