Melbourne singer songwriter Andrew Swift has released a highly accomplished debut in the form of The Way We Were Raised. A semi-autobiographical reflection on Swift’s life, it has been produced by Jim Ward (At The Drive In/Sparta), who has a really strong ear on how to musically highlight and emphasise what is great about Swift and the way that he writes and sings a song.

Musically, Swift could be lumped in with the type of ‘alternative’ content they play on triple j. However, this would do Swift a great disservice, as he has a charming and delightful take on what could be described as a classic form of power pop that is hopefully destined to be heard by many, not just those that listen to a particular radio station.

Opening with the rocking “Summer Storm”, Swift really has a great gift for depicting time and place in his lyrics and the emotions that go with them. One can almost smell that beautiful smell you get just before it rains simply by listening to this excellent track, which is crying out to be released as a single.

Swift proves himself to be a highly versatile musician, with each track on the album having its own sense of identity and character to it. The awesome “We Are The Summer” prompts visions of road trips, burning tarmac and great tunes on the car stereo, with a great rock beat behind it. It really does have a tangible, you can almost taste it, vibe of late teens and just finishing high school, that time when you launch off into adulthood. It even recalls classic power pop like that of the Hoodoo Gurus and Big Star with its enthusiasm and striking organ riff.

A track like “We Are The Summer” contrasts remarkably with the more introverted and quietly beautiful “I’ll Keep What You Say”. This is the genius of this album in a nutshell, the way that it is unpredictable and yet organic as a whole. This makes for a hugely enjoyable and at times quite compelling listen in that you never quite know where The Way We Were Raised is going to take you.

Swift has a such a great way with words, such as when he talks about, on the track “New Year’s Eve”, how it can ‘have its share of broken bones.’ The track features some gorgeous slide guitar work and sound. Again, this is a great track that captures the bittersweet thing that can be part of the fabric of one’s life. To his credit, the album never descends into navel gazing, sooky sooky la la material.

What Swift sings about are eternal and timeless life experiences that someone on the other side of the world could both understand and appreciate. The sign of a really great lyricist and song writer. On a local front, he is very much in the same class as Robert Foster and Grant Mc Lennan of The Go-Betweeens. Yes, he is shaping up to be that good: have a listen to “Kathleen Close”, where he talks about how his home town has been over-developed and commercialised beyond recognition.He strikes a really nice balance here between the personal and the what’s happening in the world around him, but never in a didactic or preachy way.

This is a highly accomplished and hugely enjoyable debut from Swift. This is a man with a very positive and exciting musical career ahead of him.

– Neil Evans