Morrissey, "Swords"

72 Billboard Rating

Most of the songs on Morrissey's B-sides collection, "Swords," aren't new, but the set is a varied trove of material recorded since 2004 that wasn't included on the former Smiths frontman's most recent three solo albums. There's a lot of piano and torch here, and plenty of the 18 tracks follow classic Moz formulas, putting wistful lyrics against melodic optimism. But the songs also show the artist's continued creative stretch, from the staggered orchestral layers of "The Never-Played Symphonies" to the ambient "Sweetie-Pie," on which Morrissey's normally careening vocals are more a cantor's eulogy. On "Shame Is the Name" (a B-side to the 2009 single "I'm Throwing My Arms Around Paris") Pretenders frontwoman Chrissie Hynde joins on vocals-a brilliant concept that is sadly underexploited in the mix. From the range of production styles to the bonus disc of live tracks, "Swords" is a welcome catalog addition.-Evie Nagy

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