Tuesday, June 18, 2013
REVIEW: Spectrals - Sob Story
Bad Penny, the debut LP from Northern England's Spectrals was, in my view, an underdog success story. While the teenage Louis Jones, aka Spectrals, did not become an international pop megastar, he did earn honest plaudits in many of the right places (including, of course, on this blog - link) for his engaging and organic take on northern-soul-cooked-in-the-garage. Of course, those of us who are fans have been highly interested in what Spectrals would offer in the second album. Relevant questions include whether the songwriting spring continued to flow, and whether the charming lo-fi approach of Bad Penny was the result of recording realities or an artistic channel to be continued.
Now an old man of 21, Louis delivers some emphatic answers. First, his songwriting remains strong, personal, economical and affecting. Moreover, Louis has acquired a more direct and mature voice in telling his story. And perhaps not surprising, he has become more versatile in his songcraft. Thus, even if he had continued his prior lo-fi ways, Sob Story would have been well worth our time. But Sob Story is a big success in other ways. Louis and his brother, Will (drums), traveled to San Francisco and brought former Girls collaborator, Chet J.R. White on board for production additional performance duties. In addition to his undeniable talents, Chet brought in some of his buddies. The happy result is a Spectrals sound that is broader, deeper and more textured.
Of course, Louis, being a male in his early '20s, is focused on love and relationships. The topic provides themes, lyrics, song titles and the album title. But such topics are timeless if the stories are well constructed and artfully delivered. And what Sob Story reveals is that the songs Louis writes, and the way he sings them, can be presented in a variety of formats -- soul, indie pop, country -- and clean up very well with high end production. This is an artist that will last, and you'll be glad to have added Sob Story to your collection.
Sob Story is already out in the UK on Wichita Recordings. It is out in the US today, June 18 via Slumberland Records.
Twitter ( @_spectrals )