Review: Ellis Swan “I’ll Be Around”

24 Sep 2014 — Dalton Vogler

When it comes to learning more about the man behind the music, there’s not a whole lot we know regarding reclusive Chicago-based artist Ellis Swan. With the exception of a few Soundcloud plaudits and a brief feature from a local magazine, Swan has gotten pretty good at keeping his backstory from getting in the way of his music projects.

And to be fair, that’s where most of our attention should be focused. With his newest release, I’ll Be Around, Swan has constructed a beautiful, haunting album that borrows folk elements to create a uniquely “noir” sound. It’s a bedroom artist production, but only by name, as Swan’s mind-altering use of space transports you beyond an intimate setting.

Relying primarily on a guitar and vocals, I’ll Be Around is a raw, emotional outpouring of fear and remorse, peppered with light storytelling to transition from track to track. In what could be considered the single from the album, “It Comes Tonight”, Swan’s sapped vocals and warbling delivery claw away at the listener. His fatigue becomes our fatigue, suggesting that it’s taking every ounce of strength to eke out the next verse.

On songs such as “Shooting Sparrows” or “Where the Road Ends”, his voice melds with the pervading static and gives off the impression that he’s on the verge of dissipating, as if the record will deteriorate in your ears before completion. It’s a rich, bizarrely pleasing sound that compels you to listen through, even if it aches to continue onward.

Though his self-described genre tag of “post-hillbilly” is what initially lured me into listening, the truth is that Ellis Swan’s LP is a decaying southern gothic world plucked straight from the mind of a displaced soul, a self-reflective odyssey that transports us into a long forgotten era. And it’s unlike anything else you’ll experience in music this year. 

I’ll Be Around is available for purchase here.