Seth Swirsky is a self-described “manic expressive,” an American pop music songwriter (including the Grammy-nominated “Tell It To My Heart”), an author, a recording artist, a filmmaker, a political writer and a noted baseball memorabilia collector. In 1980, at the age of 20, Seth Swirsky wrote the national jingle for Thomas’ English Muffins. After graduating from Dartmouth College in 1982, Swirsky wrote the Grammy-nominated hit “Tell It To My Heart” with Ernie Gold for Taylor Dayne. Jumping ahead, “Circles And Squares” is his latest in a list of such projects resulting in his third solo album.
“Shine” kicks off the CD on a subtle note that builds as the cuts bleed into an almost epic showing of melodic tunes with fantastic vocal melodies that never over power the pop, as it makes way for the title number “Circles And Squares.” This comes in casually and proceeds to entertain the ears with a fluffy but interesting appeal to it. Some electric guitar can be found here to bring it up, which the acoustics keep grounded around the vocals. This has the most bittersweet lyrics on the album but it’s helped along by some great piano. But without stopping the flow of things, it’s worth mentioning that music isn’t all that drives Seth Swirsky. But it helps explain how worldly he is with or without his music. This isn’t a new artist by any means, he’s been around. But it’s evident that he’s not bent on experience, as he retains a youthful sound.
“Old Letter” further exemplifies his experience but he doesn’t let it come off stale, as it actually contains an uplifting ambience. Don’t ask me what it is, as this is the first time I’ve ever heard the artist, but it’s a great way to be turned onto him. This is worth anyone’s time who likes a good groove without a lot of tempo changes. It’s a solid number that keeps you enticed for more of what is to come. And “Far Away” takes you there, as another track stand on its own two feet. The Beatles influence starts to surface on “Let’s Get Married” and it sounds pretty clear that McCartney carries the most influence on him. It’s a featured cut if there is one on this CD, as it stands apart more than any of the others. It takes an extra magnified ear because the vocals are low in the mix, but that helps to wrap your head around it. But it doesn’t stop there, as things continue to get interesting and his influences more felt.
“Trying To Keep It Simple” even talks about the Beatles, or being a Beatle. Who knows he could be talking about beetle bugs, but to be honest that is not how it feels. This is a very well put together number nonetheless. This leads into “I Loved Last Night” as he goes on about a date that he can’t stay tight lipped about. But they obviously had some disagreements, even though it describes a good evening. It verges on dreary but some excellent guitar work keeps it in there. It’s all very soft but with some rough edges added. But the next cut “Belong” turns out to be a high point, as it clocks in at under three minutes but sound like twice as long. This is magical in its own way. And it goes very well with the following “Sonic Ferris Wheel” which is somehow removed from the general style of songwriting, but adds some drama to the proceedings, with some nice horn work.
But if that isn’t enough, “Let’s Move To Spain” should suffice, as it brings out the funnier side of Swrisky’s power pop laden songwriting. You can’t deny some of the greatness going on in just this one number. It’s one of the better cuts when you add them all up. And that includes the best track to be found, on “The Simplest Way,” as he gets everything across in one fell swoop. Of course this can be argued when rating it so high, but I came away the most satisfied by this number. The piano runs the show, backed by some fine guitar and other strings. A simple song can say it all, and this is no exception concerning where his aim lies. And the “Table” is where everything seems to fall into place and get served upon with another track that draws you into his simple world. It might not be quite as good as the former but it is another track that stands up on its own. Put them together and you can’t lose with these two, they just hold the whole thing up to his level of quality.
A quality which never decreases but does have its lesser moments, and some of those to be heard are on “With Her Now,” which isn’t the most exciting track to say the least, but it still belongs on the album. But it is only a minute and forty-nine seconds, so it doesn’t have a lot of time to stand out. But never fear, he comes back stronger with “I Don’t Have Anything (If I Don’t Have You).” This is where it gets back to being as interesting as the finer moments on the album. He starts out listing the luxuries he is surrounded by, cars and swimming pools being a good example. But is leaves an empty feeling in him without someone to enjoy it with him. This can bore if it’s not your thing, but it’s all essential in getting his point across as a songwriter. And it certainly tops the likes of “Abyss” with its low register keeping it down for the most part. As well as “I Think Of her,” with its final notes somehow lacking in instrumentation before it starts to bubble up a little but doesn’t leave the same impression after some great stuff to compete with.