When an ascending singer-songwriter pursues a movie-worthy international love story and chronicles it in a collection of hybrid soundscapes, it’s worth sitting up and paying attention. Sara Swenson’s fourth studio album — the July 2014 release Runway Lights — captures snapshots of her 18-month experience of living abroad, moving from dating to marriage and sorting through the accompanying transitions and emotions. Produced by Don Chaffer, Runway Lights melds Swenson’s compelling vocals with pop, folk, soul and electronic/ambient textures to deliver her strongest and most personal work to date.
This giant creative step forward comes in succession of other leaps in Swenson’s relatively fresh music career. In just 2007, the Kansas City high school English teacher first tried her hand at songwriting at the offhand suggestion of a guitar salesman. Fast forward four years, and Swenson already had released three records (Sara Swenson, 2008, prod. by Chaffer; All Things Big and Small, 2010, prod. by Chaffer; Never Left My Mind, 2011, prod. by Mike Crawford). In that time frame, she also had picked up two Kansas City Singer-Songwriter of the Year awards, performed with Sarah McLachlan’s Lilith Fair, and placed a song on the season finale of ABC’s “Private Practice.” And the step beyond that? That’s Swenson’s most recent chapter — following love to another country, getting married, and funneling her stories into this newest creative work, Runway Lights.