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October 31, 2008

“Encore Status” Blog Review of ‘A Sentimental Education’


Here's the full text of the Encore Status review. Thanks, Sporky!

I like Anton Sword.
Affable chap. Very smooth. Haven’t met him, but I appreciate how clean,
how subdued he is on his album “Sentimental Education.” I hope Anton
will forgive me for assuming that his house doubled as an airport
lounge, but I’m starting to think that’s the case, first from the
album’s cover, and also from the music. Anton is a crooner. He shows
great range in that style of singing, so he can sound spooky on
“Infrared,” (more due to backing vocals as opposed to his own voice) or
melancholy as when he sings “Throw yourself away, Throw yourself away/
Liquefy your face, Liquefy your face.” He seems to feel that the pop
artist’s job is to reflect emotions to the audience as opposed to
experiencing them firsthand, and I like that about him. The most
emotional track on the album is “Standing on the Precipice,” a track
that more directly adheres to adult pop conventions, but even that
draws back at points when it feels itself getting carried away. The
guitar work directed by Sword on this track is particularly impressive
(guitarists were Julian Maile and Erik Paparazzi) because it is smooth,
measured, and soulful all at once. It suffers a little at the end,
specifically because it does abandon its restraint a bit, but maybe
that’s part of the fun. Still, amazingly good track.
Anton’s is an
act that thankfully eschews kitsch or cheese, or at least an overdose
of those elements, and takes the material as seriously as any emo
artist. “Liquefy” is the most comprehensive of his tracks, as it’s all
subdued sincerity and ambiguous haze . I like that Anton feels free to
wander about his keyboard, and the solos have a pleasant sense of timid
spontaneity. He likes to squiggle, like a kid coloring in the margins
with a glitter pen, but there is plenty of method to the wandering.
again some of the other tracks such as “The Instrument, Your Friend,”
or the aforementioned “Infrared” sound more urgent, and even a little
panicked. They traffic in ambient territory, and help by adding shades
to the starbursts. “My Judgment” is much more of a bad trip though.
Here, he subverts much of the album with some very harsh production
that almost sounds like the wailing of space ghosts in an arty sci-fi
movie. It comes off a bit overwhelming, if extremely skillful, and
contrasts, unfavorably, with his more salient tracks. The production
is, as I said, skillful, but at times inconsistent in that it sometimes
compliments its surroundings, and sometimes swells to the point of
overwhelming itself. There are violins and heavy stings, kind of like
Phil Spector, but it comes and goes too much. These are quibbles
really, and highlight just how accomplished this all is for a debut.
The bottom line is that Anton has already crafted a pretty steady
persona, and laid out some very strong thematic work in the realms of
liquid, light, and indecision.



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