Tuesday, May 15th, 2012
Review of Cold Specks’ I Predict A Graceful Expulsion
Jim AndersonMy first encounter with Cold Specks wasn’t a terrific one. Though opening up a sold-out show for St. Vincent in one’s hometown as Al Spx did last December would seem as ideal a scenario as one could hope for, the reality was decidedly less so. Despite having already accumulated some overseas buzz with a couple singles, Cold Specks as a seated, two-guitar duo had trouble holding the attention of the audience with her low-key, self-described “doom soul” though those of use close enough to the stage to feel the heaviness of her songs could attest to feeling their gravity. It would have been nice to have been blown away but getting filed under, “keep an ear out for” isn’t bad.
Making a note to pay attention turns out to have not been necessary, as it turnes out, as Cold Specks’ debut album I Predict A Graceful Expulsion – out next Tuesday – does a fine job of demanding attention all on its own. It’s a fully-produced affair – not what I would have expected based on those early impressions – with Spx’s raw yet delicate vocals augmented by a full band, tasteful horns and strings, and even backing choir when necessary. While some may have wished for a more skeletal sound to reinforce the desolate bluesiness inherent in Spx’s voice, the musical dressings never become ostentatious and create a necessary amount of sonic variety and dynamicism across the run of the album.
And most importantly, Spx’s remarkable voice is given a goodly amount of space at all times and remains firmly in the fore, delivering songwriting filled with stark imagery. It’s well-suited to Spx and draws the most direct line to her most obvious musical roots, the gospel spirituals and field hollers of early 20th century. Cold Specks probably would have impressed if it were devoted simply to reviving that sound, goodness knows Spx has the gifts to do so and could easily have gotten away with it, but Expulsion instead channels it through more modern musical filters and it comes out timeless.
Cold Specks is at The Music Hall on June 2 supporting Great Lake Swimmers. DIY and Exclaim have feature while The Guardian is streaming the album in its entirety ahead of its release. And to round things out, Rolling Stone have premiered a new video from the record.