Personnel: Tanya Donelly (vocals, guitar, keyboards); Dean Fisher (vocals, guitar, keyboards, drums, djembe, percussion); Thomas Gorman (vocals, guitar, keyboards, programming); Brian Sullivan (vocals, guitar, keyboards); Damon Krukowski, Gail Greenwood, Bill Janovitz, Wesley Stace, Will Dailey (vocals, guitar); Pip Everett, Rick Moody, Chris Toppin, Hilken Mancini (vocals); Michael Hearst (guitar, ukulele, keyboards, Theremin); Manolis Famellos (guitar, ukulele); David Nagler (guitar, keyboards); Kraig Jordan (guitar, synthesizer); Fred Abong, Mark Tomis, Russell Chudnofsky, Don Sanders (guitar); Joseph McMahon (baritone guitar, piano, upright bass); Jimmy Ryan (mandolin); Anthony Saffery (sitar); Carrie Bradley (violin); Eleanor Davol, Sam Davol (cello); Jacob Valenzuela (trumpet); Tom Chace (piano); Christopher Ewen (keyboards, synthesizer, programming); Scott Janovitz, Naomi Yang, Rachel Blumberg (keyboards); David Narcizo, David Brophy , Adam Gold , Tom Berglund (drums).
Unknown Performer Role: Scott Janovitz.
Considering how influential her work with Throwing Muses proved to be, and how much success she enjoyed with Belly, it's surprising that Tanya Donelly's solo career has been so low key. While she quietly released three solo albums and a live set between 1997 and 2006, none of them received much notice from listeners or critics. And beyond serious fans, who knew that Donelly had begun releasing a series of EPs in 2013? But if she has been traveling under the radar for the better part of a decade, it would seem that's our loss more than hers. Swan Song Series is a collection that brings together the material from the five EPs Donelly released between 2013 and 2015, and it represents some of her most engaging and wide-ranging work to date. Featuring contributions from Robyn Hitchcock, Bill Janovitz, John Wesley Harding, and Rick Moody, among many others, Swan Song Series gives Donelly the space to slip into a variety of styles and personas. She shapeshifts from the slinky, late-night torch singing of "Let Fall the Sky" and the cool electronic pulse beats of "Viva Karaoke," to the growling rock guitars of "Tu y Yo" and the tongue-in-cheek Irish balladeering of "Tooreloo." She packs a welcome amount of variety into these 31 tracks (which would have comfortably fit on two CDs instead of the three discs in this package), and while much of what's here fits into the broad category of semi-acoustic indie rock, Donelly finds plenty of different avenues to explore within that framework. She hasn't lost a bit of her knack for graceful but engaging melodies, and the cool, literate tone of her lyrics and vocals is as strong as ever. Swan Song Series arrived as Donelly was gearing up for a reunion tour with Belly, but this music shows she doesn't need the framework of a band in order to show off her talent to its best advantage. ~ Mark Deming