It’s been a weird 18 months or so for Richard Swift, ever since he released a major label concept album, “Dressed Up For The Letdown”, about his previous failures to gain recognition, only to see it flop. I suppose Swift has spent the intervening months desperately trying not to write another bunch of songs about this weird career arc. But instead, his career has taken some pretty eccentric diversions.

It’s been a weird 18 months or so for Richard Swift, ever since he released a major label concept album, “Dressed Up For The Letdown”, about his previous failures to gain recognition, only to see it flop. I suppose Swift has spent the intervening months desperately trying not to write another bunch of songs about this weird career arc. But instead, his career has taken some pretty eccentric diversions.

“Dressed Up For The Letdown” and its predecessors, if you were lucky enough to hear them, placed Swift firmly in the tradition of Harry Nilsson and right next to Rufus Wainwright, an exceptionally talented piano balladeer with a taste for Tin Pan Alley arcana. Of late, though, he’s done everything possible to confound expectations, making one album of mediocre instrumental electronica as Instruments Of Science And Technology, and one cute double-EP thing as Onasis, where he recast himself as a sort of lo-fi garage Dion.

This new EP, available for free from EMusic, it seems, moves on the Onasis schtick a little, and is clearly the best Swift product since “Dressed Up” – no coincidence, I guess, that it’s the first since then to come out unambiguously under his own name. It still has the whiff of pastiche hovering over it, especially on the first two tracks, “Would You?” and “Lady Luck”, which seem to be some inauthentically crackly homages to Frankie Valli and Motown.

Swift, though, is a better songwriter than he is a mimic, and consequently it’s the artful punch of these songs which is most striking. “The Bully” seems to be a schizophrenic face-off between his street-tough Onasis character and this new, falsetto Valli boy persona. But it’s the last couple of songs, “The Original Thought” and “A Song For Milton Feher”, that suggest Swift hasn’t entirely forsaken his original strengths.

Wry piano strolls both, there are still some whimsical acts of sabotage here, not least the analogue synth spray that he lets loose on “The Original Strength”. But it’s the self-deprecating swagger, the tricksy melody, the general air of roistering craftsmanship that’s so impressive.

Some two or three years ago, I saw Swift play a bunch of truly awesome songs – maybe one was called “I Am The Ocean”? – that have yet to show up anywhere, as far as I can tell. Maybe now, finally, he can get down to recording those ones?