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Swan Dive

• Swan Dive

As Frank Goodman revealed in last month's Pat Buchanan review, Puremusic scribe Bill DeMain has a sideline as a performing songwriter (in addition to writing for the magazine of that name). For over a decade Swan Dive, his duo with singer Molly Felder, has been keeping the flame of exquisitely written, played and sung pop music alive. On a series of CDs that refer to the music of Burt Bacharach, Simon and Garfunkel, Sergio Mendes, and the Beatles, without slavishly imitating any of them, these two have employed Nashville's finest musicians and arrangers (including Buchanan) to create pop music that demonstrates the art of the genre.

If the band's name is unfamiliar it is because, though they have had top ten singles in Japan, Stateside notoriety has thus far eluded them. This is our loss, but fortunately their foreign fans continue to give them the wherewithal to keep making records, and that is our gain.

After a failed attempt by Compass Records to break them over here, Popcorn and a Mama Who Loves Me Too comes as an import only release--though available for U.S. fans at the Swan Dive website and on iTunes. At their website you can also pick up their new DVD, a compilation of live performances and promos. The lo-fi video of some of the transfers does nothing to diminish the infectious joy and the precision of the performances therein.

Joy and precision are the watchwords on all the Swan Dive releases, and the latest is no exception. From the opener, "Get Back Together," where the Al Green influence stretches from the title through the letter-perfect Memphis groove, to "You Are My Superstar"--the quintessential Swan Dive tune: soaring melody, blissful lyrics, giddy performance--PAAMWLMT provides the archetypical band experience. Imagine the most inventive, delicious dessert you have ever eaten, in the classiest, most expensive restaurant you have ever patronized, and you begin to get the idea.

If this makes the music sound like mere confection, rest assured that a) there is no "mere" about it, and b) the pair is comfortable exploring the darker side of life as well, in tunes like "Misery Go Round," and "Mumbling A Goodbye." Just as Molly Felder's unaffected voice keeps the bubbly pop from boiling over into kitsch, its unadorned beauty gives the sad songs hope. Not since Karen Carpenter has unhappiness sounded so gorgeous. For his part, DeMain's writing and arranging makes it all sound so easy that you might miss the phenomenal talent involved.

I could go on and on. If raving about a fellow reviewer's record seems like an example of editorial incest, rest assured that I was a huge Swan Dive fan before I ever heard of Puremusic or Bill DeMain. I bought and paid for this CD and the DVD, and would do so again.

(you'll laugh)

(PS: Be sure to check out Bill's book, The Sterling Huck Letters. You will laugh--a lot.) • Michael Ross

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swandive.org     sterlinghuckletters.com

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