James Swanberg – The One and Only

James Swanberg is your weird uncle.

He has been a loyal servant to the DIY Chicago scene for as long as I can remember. While he’s rarely been under the spotlight, James has been consistently intricate to the development of the community, operating from just behind the curtain with his rapid and prolific song-a-day campaign under the guise of his label Tripp Tapes and his endless series of featurettes with rock colossus Twin Peaks and other good guys too numerous to name here. Now he has decided to show his face, and the result, The One and Only, is a wry, tough love letter to the pop one-hitters of the ’60s.

Planting sonic indications to that era while applying a whole level of 21st century irony to the music, we own Swanberg more than we know. This has been made abundantly clear to those who’ve had the pleasure of seeing him live, where he totes an aggressive brand of participatory karaoke suicide. It’s just great. No other way to spin it.

You can tell that Swanberg has a deep admiration for the long-forgotten gems of another time. He felt the need to embody their listless passion and bubblegum treachery. It’s the philosophy of seeing the beauty in the overlooked, and James was able to make a whole album of tokens to the trade. Now that may sound like a well-placed insult to the untrained eye, but it’s quite the opposite. The One and Only is an entire album of crate diggers from a band you can’t prove ever existed, the songs being their last trace of reality. These tracks have the perfect amount of surprise and predictability; with gushy titles like “Harder on Me” and “It’s No Wonder,” seemingly what you get is what you get, yet the songs find a way to earn an acute sense of originality and sweet vigor.

You see, James Swanberg doesn’t mind the novelty in life, in fact he prefers it. Because in that world, nothing is taken too seriously (so, in turn, nothing can go wrong). He’s the patron saint of underground Chicago, the embodiment of a Sony Walkman. Maybe you don’t need it in today’s age, but the ones who catch its eye will continue to swear by it long after the fact.

James Swanberg
The One and Only
[Tripp Tapes]