By Al Kaufman
Laurel Sprengelmeyer, a native Iowan who now calls Montreal home, has a voice powerful enough that members of Arcade Fire and The National wanted to chip in on her debut CD. It is a voice that can feels at home with a number of styles. The Golden record skips around with everything from dirges to power pop, to some experimental something or rather, yet it all sounds cohesive.
“The Lamb” sounds like it was recorded in an old drafty church, possibly by a bunch of celibate and dour nuns. It carries that kind of weight. The chamber pop shows up again on “Your Radio” and “People Is Place,” which sounds like something that Enya would try after ingesting a few Valium. If this music made up the bulk of the CD, it would be relegated to new age households and Whole Foods.
But Sprengelmeyer knows how to mix things up. There is the wickedly dense guitar that opens “Guyegaros,” and the bright, Bjorkish pop that makes up “Red Hunting Jacket.” “Boatman” is simply a kitchen sink approach to song-crafting. The frolicsome piano and strings lead into big drums, which eventually give way to her sweet vocals, which eventually add a dash of Vaudevillian flair. It’s a mish-mash, but it’s an entrancing one nonetheless.
But Sprengelmeyer really shines when her voice does not have to compete with all the clutter. “Black Cloud” is a pretty ballad, but “The Heron and the Fox” is simply stellar. While her voice may display some of the anxiety of a little girl, she belies her years as she sings of nostalgia and demonstrates a mental toughness. “I take my place among the truckers and I show them what I’ve got,” she croons matter-of-factly. It makes you want to grab her and give her a hug, but you’re not quite sure whether or not she would bite you in the process.