Best of 2018: Hamilton Leithauser on His Friend Richard Swift’s Final Album The Hex

Swift passed away earlier this year.

In place of a more traditional year-end best-of list, Talkhouse has asked some of our favorite artists to choose their favorite album of 2018 and tell us all about it.
—The Talkhouse Team

It’s bittersweet to hear my old friend’s brand new songs now that he’s gone. Richard and I had really fallen out of touch in the last year of his life—the occasional text was about it. I guess during that time he was probably writing and recording some of this record. The lo-fi sound, and psychedelic, dreamy soul-haze drops me straight into his recording studio in Cottage Grove, Oregon. My longtime sound man Chris “Pepperjack” Colbert lives nearby, and used to head over to the studio mid-afternoon to sit and smoke cigarettes and weed while Dicky DJ’d records over a very loud PA. They’d do this for. like, 12-15 hours at a time. I love that image so much. Just the two of them. So, so loud in the dark. Dicky recorded some of the mixes he made and put them out online. (I recommend Dime, Nickel, Pennies.)

Last time I passed through, Dicky and I had planned to have dinner. I’d talked to him at about 4 PM, but when I showed up at about 6, he and a guy I didn’t know (I believe it was Nathaniel Rateliff) had just extinguished what look like a fire-extinguisher-sized joint, and looked up at me wide-eyed, like there was no one on planet earth they had expected to see less. We did have a (slow… very slow) dinner, and it was great to see him, but in the end I felt like I’d kind of pried these two out of their deep-space zone, and I was happy to know they were blasting back off when I left for San Francisco. His studio was an outpost bunker. I sadly never got around to working there, but I’ll always be happy to have such a specific time-and-place image in my mind whenever that familiar psych-soul sound comes on the radio.

Hamilton Leithauser lives with his wife and two baby girls in New York City. He was the singer for rock band the Walkmen from 2000-2014. He recently got social on the internet and now has Twitter, Facebook and a website.