The Swell Soloist
Marketa Irglova first came to public attention in the wonderful Irish film Once. She and Glen Hansard of the Frames told an all-too-realistic tale of poor timing, portraying a couple stuck in that nebulous realm between friends and lovers. The film and its beautiful soundtrack earned the pair an Oscar, which brought international attention to their group the Swell Season.
Irglova’s first solo album, Anar, finds the Czech singer at a new phase of life. Though she and Hansard wrote and recorded 2009’s Strict Joy, they are no longer romantically involved—indeed, Irglova married sound engineer Tim Iseler earlier this year. It seems that the singer has come into her own: this solo effort feels fully realized, emotionally and musically. Her delicate tone has found new strength, due in part to beautiful support from vocal harmonies and piano. Irglova clearly knows how to pull the heartstrings, and songs like “We Are Good” and “Go Back” are just shy of the expressive depth of Swell Season hits. While a touch of Hansard’s grit wouldn’t hurt (if only for variety’s sake), the album creates its own world of soft emotion. Even the Iranian “Dokhtar Goochani” carries so much meaning that English words aren’t necessary—it sweeps up the listener just as easily as the other eleven tracks.
Anar showcases Irglova’s nuanced voice, emotional depth, and remarkable development as an artist. Though the sound she creates is understated and intimate, her passion is palpable; she is no longer the softer side of the Swell Season, but a strong force in her own right. Marketa Irglova has truly arrived, and it is a joy to behold.