L’Spaerow – S/T

It’s almost impossible to review this album without mentioning that the lead singer/songwriter/guitarist for L’Spaerow – and, indeed, the one who started Lucid Records – is Christopher Broach, former guitarist/singer for the seminal indie-rock band Braid. And while the rest of the members of Braid are moving on to fame and radio airtime with Hey Mercedes, Broach has gone a different direction, branching out his musical style with Firebird Band, a forthcoming solo release, and L’Spaerow. Each of these projects, I suspect (not having heard his solo work), is very different, and the latest, L’Spaerow’s debut self-titled album (which also features Kenneth Boksa and Adam Johnson), takes a darker approach.
The music on this album is definitely dark, but not quite in a gothic or metal sort of way. While there are moody, dark tones throughout the album, they’re brought out through thick guitar lines, low-keyed bass, and Broach’s own unique voice. The production creates the desired effect here, giving a hint of an echo or layer to Broach’s vocals, turning the guitars into wide-open, shimmering, delayed effects, giving the bass and drums a powerful yet not overpowering feel. Keyboards are sprinkled in for a hint of the new-wave gothic nature their sound can provide. The songs are long, rather intricate, and while you won’t likely find yourself singing along, the songs are powerful and intricate to the point that you might want to.
The opening “Chance” features such shimmering guitars against a backdrop of aggressive percussion and bass that the song feels a bit otherworldly, so when Broach’s vocals – mixed perfectly for his style of singing – belt out the lyrics – equal parts singing and hinting at shouting – you can feel his words perfectly. It flows nicely into the more urgent “Bridges,” and you might find yourself singing along to the chorus of “And you will know us by the bridges we have left in flames,” an anthemic-like line I can see being shouted in a live setting. Perhaps the best song here, “3,454 Empty Pages” feels deeply personal, as Broach describes a certain person over powerful guitars, booming drums, and keyboards. “The Pharmacists” is drenched with reverb and a softer, dreamier feel that is a nice break in the album.
The rest of the album is strong, and even the songs that may not immediately stand out prove to be interesting listens, from what seems to be an ode to touring (“Front Step City”) to the flowing, almost electronic feel of “Standing in Front of Speeding Cars.” “Amsterdam” gets chaotic with horns and electronic drums and guitars all mixing together for an interesting effect. Even the doomy “Swim,” which sounds as if it was recorded in a concert hall and features Broach, piano, and some eerie effects, is an intriguing listen.
Broach has truly stayed busy since leaving Braid. His releases with the Firebird Band are tight and powerful, and he shows an even darker, perhaps more personal side with L’Spaerow. This album is a wonderfully produced and performed release, and while its thick layers and intricate structuring make it a bit difficult to get into, I suspect fans of Broach’s work will be in no way disappointed. Be on the look out for more from this proficient artist, as he continues to record with all three projects.