I was curious about Spencer, the new album by Portland, Maine’s musical stalwart Spencer Albee.
You’re excited about things you know. You’re scared about things you don’t. You’re curious about the things in between.
Spencer Albee, who to some degree I know, is that which lies in the middle. He’s a dude who was in Rustic Overtones and then the frontman for As Fast As- two bands that couldn’t be further apart musically. Then there was Spencer and the School Spirit Mafia, which I never listened to much, but just assumed sounded like a Wes Anderson movie and enjoyed dressing up in costumes and then Space Versus Speed or Speed Versus Sound or…shit man I can never remember that band’s name. But it sounded like robots and was good, but short-lived. The hype seemed to last longer than the existence of the band.
So then comes this solo album, Spencer, and solely based on Mr. Albee’s track record, the future was too hard to pinpoint. There would be Beatles’ influences. There would be pop. There would be musical accompaniment by some of Portland’s finest musicians.
But what else?
Upon further review, there would be just some good ol’ fashion songs. The category to which this album would be defined should just be music because it’s just that- music. And no, I’m not cheating by speaking in generalities. It should be listed under music because frankly, it’s just that- good music. Plain and simple. It’s not rocket science and it’s not dismal sludge. There are absolutely no traces of what you’d find on mainstream radio these days and it’s sprinkled with some of the best parts to come out of the 1970’s music scene.
Spencer comes off as a deeply personal record from both a musical standpoint and lyrically. It’s an album by a bearded gentlemen who after years and years of lumbering along in bands, decided to strike out on his own. There are chances taken that only a lone wolf would do. The decisions are Spencer’s and Spencer’s alone. It must have been as liberating to make as it is liberating to listen to.
Pop music- not Beyonce pop or whatever the eff that Bieber kid is doing – is Spencer’s modus operandi (and I totally spelled that correctly.) He basks in string arrangements and gigantic, yet delightfully simple horn parts. Again, not rocket science, which is what I personally feel makes for good pop music. Let the rockers get all deep into their shit. Pop should sound natural, like breathing, which Spencer sounds like.
I love the harmonies. I love the melodies. Frankly I even love the album cover. It gives you no insight into what the album might sound like, which I’m cool with. Let the curiosity carry you all the way through. It increases the payoff.
“California Calling,” which was the first song I had heard off the album back when the video was released, remains my favorite song. I’ll most likely be humming it for the rest of the day even though I’ll be listening to Jay Z for the rest of the day to cleanse myself of Magna Carta, Holy Grail. Another great song is the album’s opener, “It’s Alive,” which Albee and his band recently performed on a local Portland TV station. It’s a wild and tight, enormous-sounding piece of pop music. It goes through the highs and lows without breaking a sweet. Eff word, it’s just a good tune, man. You also can’t beat “Macworth,” “Wait Through the War,” and the album’s closer, “Kiss Me Like a Stranger,” which oozes with cockiness and swagger.
If Facebook is any indication, Albee has been working on Spencer for a while, but the timing of the album’s release couldn’t be any better. This album is perfect, effin’ spot on, for summer. Shit I want to have another 4th of July BBQ just so I can play it. Maybe he planned it this way along, maybe he didn’t.
Regardless, it’s just an added bonus.
What more could you ask for?
For more information, go to Spencer’s Facebook page.