Thursday, June 4th, 2009
Bones In A Museum
Review of Rae Spoon's Superioryouareinferior
Amber DawkinsSo Polaris Prize ballots are due in less than a week and as is seems to be habit with me, I haven’t listened to nearly as many of the eligible albums as my fellow jurors, or at least that’s how it seems from the discussions going on at our top-secret, private BBS. But besides making me feel inadequate, the forum has been invaluable for pointing me to records that are sitting in my promo piles and might otherwise go uninvestigated for lack of time or whatever.
One such record, and one which may very well make it onto my submissions ballot, was Superioryouareinferior, the 2008 release from Calgary singer-songwriter Rae Spoon. Though Spoon’s fourth album, I’d never heard of him before his name began cropping up in early recommendation lists from other jurors and lo and behold, I had a copy of the CD and so popped it into the player before carrying on with what I was doing. And then I almost immediately stopped what I was doing.
The lead track, “Great Lakes”, just floored me. It’s a simple tune, the simple arrangement led by guitar and slowly built up with glockenspiel, keys and bass and drums, but it’s Spoon’s voice that gives it transcendence. Singing paeans to each of the bodies of water noted in the title, his voice is so wracked with yearning such that if you’re in a place where your emotional defenses are down, just a little, it’ll cut right into the heart, straight and true. I have a feeling that my reaction to that resonance may be disproportionately strong, but there it is.
And if that one song hits the bullseye squarely, the rest of the album doesn’t stray far from the mark. It’s evident that Spoon comes from a folksinger tradition, but he also incorporates electrified instruments, strings and electronic textures in a most subtle and natural manner to make Superioryouareinferior much more than just a folk record. As a songwriter, Spoon is thoughtful and introspective, drawing inspiration from history and identity, and is able evoke a lot with few words. And what’s not explicitly said is implied through the emotiveness and phrasing of his voice, a thing of high, pure beauty with just the right amount of twang and vibrato.
With each listen, Superioryouareinferior reveals more depths beneath its placid surface and I think I just talked myself into putting on the ballot.
MP3: Rae Spoon – “Come On Forest Fire Burn The Disco Down”
Stream: Rae Spoon / Superioryouareinferior
MySpace: Rae Spoon