Swing Out Sister had arrived at their peak with their seventh studio album Somewhere Deep in the Night. Initially issued in Japan in May 2001, the remaining global territories received it in March of 2002. Produced by their longtime colleague Paul Stavely O’Duffy, Somewhere Deep in the Night was a sprawling, cinematic masterpiece with melody to spare. It drew on all of Corinne Drewery and Andy Connell’s influences—French films, classic American soul and crisp British musical aestheticism.
Critics and Swing Out Sister loyalists sang praises for the LP, but it was met with a criminal silence from mainstream audiences that the duo had grown accustomed to. This cold shoulder to the pair’s increasingly erudite recordings post-It’s Better to Travel (1987) led to unavoidable conflict with the major label system. At the outset of the 2000s, Drewery and Connell found themselves on the Shanachie Records roster, a respectable independent outpost that graciously housed Somewhere Deep in the Night.
A lesser artist would have been frustrated with their “exile” to a boutique imprint while at the top of their creative game. This was not the case for Swing Out Sister. They not only flourished outside of the major label machinery, but more importantly, Drewery and Connell managed to record three worthy follow-ups to Somewhere in Deep in the Night: Where Our Love Grows (2004), Beautiful Mess (2008) and A Private View (2012). All these moves put Swing Out Sister on the path toward their eleventh album, Almost Persuaded.
The record’s roots can be traced back to PledgeMusic—a popular outlet that drops the wall between fans and recording artists. The campaign kicked off in earnest in 2014 and as detailed in my interview with Drewery and Connell this past April, Almost Persuaded went through a few changes over a four-year stretch before it was presentable. From ambitious big band aspirations to hip-hop inclinations, the finalized form of Almost Persuaded arms itself with arresting organic and inorganic pop sonics tied to Swing Out Sister’s faithful genre associations with jazz and funk music.
Almost Persuaded was originally unveiled to Swing Out Sister’s core base via the PledgeMusic platform at the end of 2017. As of last month, through distribution deals with Miso Music and Sony Records, Almost Persuaded has entered the wider marketplace for broader consumption.
Upon one’s first listen, the new long player from Swing Out Sister is cool and nonchalant, its refined production vibes provided courtesy of Drewery and Connell themselves. However, return visits with the project uncover an album with the characteristic wit, depth and range that has come to define the Swing Out Sister canon.
As an arranger, Connell’s hand is fluid and lush on highlights such as “Happier Than Sunshine,” “Until Tomorrow Forgets” and “I Wish I Knew.” Assisting in turning Connell’s vivid ideas into reality is the impressive band Swing Out Sister has recorded and toured with over the last several years. And so, sonically, the set balances the precision of a studio affair with the improvisation of a live environment.
Drewery, the vocal fuel for Swing Out Sister’s songs, is as joyfully florid as she ever has been as a singer. Her attention to detail is what drives the sensuous (“Don’t Give the Game Away”), reflective (“Almost Persuaded”) and romantic (“Be My Valentine”) airs of Almost Persuaded. Further, she also sounds like she’s enjoying herself throughout the LP; that type of enthusiasm is unquestionably infectious.
Whether the mainstream ever “gets” Swing Out Sister isn’t really a concern for Drewery or Connell at this point. Instead, Swing Out Sister have decided to continue focusing on crafting the best pop music they can and invite whomever wants to come along for the ride. As Almost Persuaded most assuredly proves, the ride is always a thrill.
Notable Tracks: “Almost Persuaded” | “Don’t Give the Game Away” | “I Wish I Knew” | “Until Tomorrow Forgets”