For Who The Bell Tolls For
“Woke up from a dream and you were gone forever / Never thought I’d lose a national treasure,” Jonathon Rado sings on his latest album, For Who The Bell Tolls For, a reference to John Donne’s famous poem, and a fitting and adventurous tribute to his close friend and musical collaborator, Richard Swift, who died of alcohol-related hepatitis in 2018.
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Richard Swift was a treasure in the indie world, for sure, working with Rado’s band, Foxygen, along with other indie greats, like the Shins, Pedro the Lion, and Damien Jurado, bands that I have followed for years, and who many, like myself, owe a deep debt to as a person and a creator.
“You can finally get some rest / under the ocean,” Radio sings on the title track. With all of their history, Rado incorporates grand imagery (the ocean is a big theme) and remarks a number of times on the record, “I could see there was something wrong.” It’s a record of friendship (“All you wanted was a piece of my mind / All I wanted was some piece of mind”), and as a tribute to his late friend, he attempted to create music that Swift would smile upon, not cloying but generous, with its intricate composition and clever but heartfelt poetry.
It recalls a number of times on the album, Jim James of My Morning Jacket, another artist who is so good at putting his finger on the pulse of deep and complex emotions, and rendering them with pop alternative magic. There’s layers and layers of vocals on the tracks, displaying Rado’s pop prowess. It tugs on your heartstrings when he sings about his friend getting “Farther Away” with time, and in the next song, he talks about the “family” of friendship that can withstand even so great a loss.
It is not only a touching album but a kind of masterpiece of songwriting. It’s a beautiful album, whether or not you know its germination and history. But with the friendship of Swift and Rado, becomes a deep and searching and satisfying listen. Swift spent his life as a musician and a producer, moving people in deep ways with his art and craft, and Rado continues his legacy. The last song, “Yer Funeral,” is the only song on the record without vocals or lyrics, but it is a heartfelt send off to a friend who can never be replaced, but who will certainly live on in everyone that he has touched with his life and his music, including myself.
order For Who The Bell Tolls For by Jonathan Rado HERE
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