I initially found myself less than enamored with Little Scream’s debut album, The Golden Record. With a superficial listen, it amounted to no more than typical ethereal indie folk-rock awash in reverb and guitar effects. Yet I gave it another half-hearted go, and then another, and ultimately started hearing something I now find not only truly enjoyable, but actually special in a genre otherwise crowded with copycat and derivative musicians.
It would be an understatement to characterize Little Scream’s sole member, Laurel Sprengelmeyer, as a vocalist, as she uses her voice as an instrument more so than just about any other like-minded contemporary vocalist, save for Björk. In addition to her rich and flowing harmonies, she also arranges her voice in what could be synthesized strings on a less innovative artist’s recording. Her instrument of choice dominates “Cannons,” a standout track with the most infectious vocal tremolo this side of Ric Ocasek and Tommy James. Right on the heels of that track is “The Heron and the Fox,” a soft folk song that Paul Simon could have written it in 1966, though she plays both Simon and Garfunkel in the vocal department, delivering melancholy harmonized lines beautifully. She returns to predominantly folk-oriented music on “Black Cloud,” this time in the rustic territory that Iron & Wine’s Sam Beam frequently occupies.
Sprengelmeyer indulges in various genre exercises that are often refreshing to the ear. “Guyegaros” is vaguely country, complete with dobro and a whiff of Ennio Morricone. She and her backing musicians also manage to bring traces of Pete Townsend (both psychedelic-pop and hard-rock incarnations) out on the alternately chamber-pop/arena rock track “Boatman,” and the whimsical trot of “Red Hunting Jacket,” complete with the most percussive hand claps since Queen.
Little Scream made me ever more firm in my stance that music is a living form. In a much shorter time frame than many other bands I’d now be embarrassed to admit I disliked upon first listen, Laurel Sprengelmeyer has challenged and reaffirmed my belief that a person can continually return to music and find not only how one’s opinion of a song has changed, but how the song actually changes the listener.
Feist – The Reminder
Florence + The Machine – Lungs
Simon & Garfunkel – Parsley, Sage, Rosemary, and Thyme