New Music | Friday Roll Out: Spiritualized, S. Carey, My Idea

If you’re left wondering about S. Carey, you really shouldn’t. He should already have been lingering in your memory and in your dreams. He’s best known as the drummer and backing vocalist for Bon Iver, that indie folk band from Wisconsin. Carey released his first album in 2010 and has released 3 albums and a couple of EPs. His new Break Me Open (Jagjaguwar), his 4th full-length opus, is nothing short of amazing. Through a collection of 10 songs, he entices with his sweet delivery filled with coos and majestic transitions from song to song. Carey is deliberate with his songwriting, there’s a delicateness imbued throughout, allowing every track to stand out. No, it’s not hyperbole, it’s fact. Break Me Open is powerful from beginning to end. Carey has no need to raise his voice, drifting with his soothing delivery. But don’t take our word for it, take one listen and judge for yourself.

Last year the Brooklyn 2-piece No Idea released its That’s My Idea EP and left many intrigued, wondering what it could do with a full-length release. It seems Nate Amos and Lily Konigsberg have answered the call with its debut long-player CRY MFER (Hardly Art), but what they’ve pieced together may contend with a bit of confusion in the band’s direction.

With the band’s EP, it touched on a few different things, which it expounds on the new release as well. The difference on the full-length, some things don’t seem to work so well although it takes absolutely nothing away from the majority of CRY MFER. It’s a bold move to start things out with the title track itself but this is partly what the fans want to hear, as the band moves in a unidirectional manner. The instruments – guitars, drums, bass – all move seamlessly together as Konigsberg vocals accentuate the track with her airy vocals. The rhythm pops and snaps hard; that’s the attraction to it. There are others that appeal in the same fashion like with the mechanical rhythm of “Lily’s Phone” where Konigsberg’s hypnotic vocals ride the building wave of music. The track is charming and never strays from getting its point across.

No Idea shifts gears on the single “Breathe You,” where Amos takes the reins, leading the way on the duet with Konigsberg but he’s more so providing the hook as she coos throughout. The drum machine provides an adequate amount of rhythm as guitar & bass caress the track. It’s a different look for the band as is the lowkey, or lo-fi, piano-driven “Not Afraid Anymore.” This is where we seem to find No Idea out of its element with a song that seems structured like a sitcom theme song. Not that it resembles one but you may not be able to help think of one every time you hear it. But there’s redemption throughout the album, and on “I Can’t Dance Part 2” a follow-up to the band’s first part on its EP. Here, Amos takes hold of Guy Diamond’s autotune but before you make any judgments, it’s completely playful and endearing, rich and full of life. It’s colorful yet also seemingly monochromatic. But not really. It’s easy to fall in love with this song, with its punchy melody and cheery disposition. The band works in jangly pop songs like “Pretty You” and “One Tree Hell (feat. thanks for coming)” and they’re palatable but when there’s an explosiveness surrounding “I Should Have Never Generated You,” that’s where we want to be. Driving rhythms, repetitive bass line, and spurts of guitars all around.

While CRY MFER is a pretty good record, not every song is a winner. Not every song created needs to be released. It’s an honest fact, listeners don’t need to be inundated with every song an artist writes. I like the album and the band, and I’m pretty sure next time around they’ll stun me all around.

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It’s been decades, a long enough time for an artist to no longer be held captive by his past, and while Spacemen 3 will always be held in reverence, Jason Pierce’s musical identity is wrapped around Spiritualized. Since the band’s inception over 30 years ago, there have been considerable changes, beginning with the fact Pearce is now the only constant member of the group. But since 1992’s Lazer Guided Melodies, the music Pierce and his associates as Spiritualized have created, blistered with otherworldly harmonies, washes of guitars, and just a spectacle of grandiose songwriting.  

To say Spiritualized has evolved throughout the years may be minimalizing the idea because Spiritualized has matured since the band’s inception. It seems to be evolution personified itself. The band has just released the new Everything Was Beautiful (Fat Possum) and Pierce is able to convey a host of emotions. Circling again and again around “The Mainline Song,” with its atmospheric & haunting background vocals, moving like a freight train – with a sampling of an actual freight – the song crescendos steadily around a rhythm with guitars & varying instrumentation. It’s magnificent and you won’t realize there aren’t any vocals until the 3-minute mark. Pierce’s voice blends in just like another instrument, taking nothing away from the instrumentation. The 6-minute song is followed by the 7-minute “The A Song (Laid In Your Arms),” which is both cacophonic & melodious, sometimes all at once! The background is filled noisily with clashing overdriven guitars that eventually make their way to the foreground, merged with what could be exploding horn play or just guitars, you decide, as they momentarily land in free jazz improvisational territory. But it takes nothing away from the rhythm section, keeping its cool throughout this psychedelic pop explosion.

Spiritualized obviously does things differently than others and you can hear that on “Best Thing You Never Had (The D Song),” which takes much from Blues rhythms but is tactical in its delivery with atmospheric guitars initially allowing listeners to believe it’s moving in one direction but heads in another. Horns spit in and out but aren’t an integral part of the song, while on “Crazy,” the song is wrapped around slide & acoustic guitar and we see a more westernized approach here, covered in desert plains and dusty trails. The closing “I’m Coming Home Again” at almost 10 minutes in length, rides a rhythm for all its worth, incorporating a hodgepodge of instruments along the way and it all works to its benefit. If Isaac Hayes worked in the confines of rock music, it would probably sound something like this. It’s far from being self-indulgent as everything plays its part throughout. Listeners will barely notice how long the track is and that says much about Pierce’s songwriting.

It’s been 4 years since Spiritualized released an album and fans will appreciate the shifting motions within Everything Was Beautiful. Every track here is meticulously pieced together and we can all understand why Jason Pierce is a musician that should be protected at all costs.

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