In a way, Long Distance Swimmer is the perfect title for Galway native Adrian Crowley's fourth album. Since releasing his debut A Strange Kind in 1999, Crowley has maintained a quiet success with his low-key folk musings, making friends and fans of people like Ryan Adams, James Yorkston, Adem and Steve Albini along the way. If follow-ups When You Are Here You Are Family (recorded with Albini in Chicago) and A Northern Country (2004) established him as a firm favourite amongst Fence Collective advocates and lovers of sparse songwriting alike, then Long Distance Swimmer is set to bring his music to a wider audience still. Probably the most accessible, and certainly the loveliest record in Crowley's canon, it's an album of thoughtfully-crafted, sometimes majestic, and mostly understated songwriting, embellished by subtle guitar strums, hushed drumming and rich swells of strings that would warm the iciest of hearts. Crowley deals his fair share of acoustic, downbeat numbers here (Star of the Harbour, Walk-On Part, Electric Eels) in a rich, warm baritone that's part-David Kitt, part-Nick Cave - but the gorgeous fullness of These Icy Waters, the striking, almost sinister standout Harmony Row and likeable piano-led pulse of Brother At Sea ensure that his oft-maudlin inclinations are tempered by uptempo songs that have an almost poppy sensibility. There's a talent here, too, for painting poignant lyrical landscapes: Temporary Residence sees him ruminate: "Sparks fall from the ashtray, blow across the grass", and matters of the heart are dealt a wry blow in Walk-On Part: ("Of all the bedrooms in this town, you had to walk into mine..") Long Distance Swimmer is certainly the sort of album that's best appreciated when aligned with a certain mood; but, nonetheless, like its title, it has a determined durability that can only be admired.
Review by Lauren Murphy | 09:00 | Wednesday 12th December 2007 | Album Review