What do you get when you combine a gentle classically trained Czech female pianist with a gritty-yet-melodic brooding Irishman? Although it sounds like a joke waiting for a witty punchline, it’s anything but.
The “punchline” is The Swell Season: A sublime combination of two profoundly talented artists, who are the real life “Guy” and “Girl” from the acclaimed independent movie Once. Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová’s second full-length as a duo, Strict Joy, contains tales of heartache, and conversely, love and happiness. With harmonies nearing emotional perfection, and instrumentation (piano, mandolin, violin, various guitars, bass, percussion, and horns, drums, Spanish laud, and archilaud) by a superb cast of musicians that perfectly surrounds the candid lyrics, it’s hard to find fault in their creations. Although the majority of the songs were written by Hansard, Irglová lends a gentle hand to his gritty melody with her brilliant performances, making it feel as though they’re two kindred spirits.