Secretly Canadian recently issued The Novelist, the 2003 album by Angeleno Richard Swift, together with a disc of new material, Walking Without Effort, as the two-CD set The Collection Vol. 1. The title’s a bit presumptuous (Richard who?), and the liner notes don’t offer much insight into the man’s background. But after listening to the set half a dozen times I’m not terribly offended. Swift is an elegant, earthy pop songwriter a la 70s art-pop mavens like Van Dyke Parks, Randy Newman, and Harry Nilsson, couching sophisticated melodies in sublime arrangements. On The Novelist he sounds like Rufus Wainwright at his most sedate and plainspoken, while the songs on Walking Without Effort recall the deceptively simple melodic languor of Ron Sexsmith. But though he borrows elements from all those artists, Swift isn’t an impressionist–he sounds like himself on every song. The Collection is one of the most arresting pop albums I’ve heard this year. Earlimart headlines. Sun 10/2, 9 PM, Schubas, 3159 N. Southport, 773-525-2508, $10 in advance, $12 at the door.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Lance Alton Troxel.