Rae Spoon is quickly becoming one of Canada’s best songwriters in terms of emotional content. It doesn’t matter what genre they tackle, be it country, electronica or everything in between; Spoon’s music always resonates on a deeply honest and personal level.
My Prairie Home may be Spoon’s biggest achievement yet. The album, besides being Spoon’s seventh full-length, is also the soundtrack and score to a National Film Board documentary of the same name, directed by Chelsea McMullan. The documentary deals with growing up and surviving in a evangelical Christian family.
Given the documentary’s subject matter, there is definitely a religious element to this album. Opener “Amy Grant” is supported by angelic voices in the background and little else, making it sound like a hymn. “Sunday Dress,” one of the album’s standout songs, packs an early punch with its lyrics describing identity issues and backed by piano and guitar. Then there’s more obvious references like “God Was On Your Shoulders,” which tells the story of an abusive husband.
The songs don’t all have to explicitly touch on religion to make an impact, however. “How Do You Run?” has Spoon’s most powerful vocals on the record, building up in both volume and passion, with the drums and guitars responding accordingly. “I Will Be a Wall” with its refrain of “Hide the children, hide the children” builds up with grace, adding marching-band-style drums and later horns.
“This Used To Be the Bottom of an Ocean” with its ukulele backing is a nice change of pace. The ukulele always gives songs a laid-back feel, and it does the same here. “Cowboy,” on the other hand, is monstrously heavy and surges with raw feelings. It pierces the heart with lines like “But all I’ve ever done is run from trucks and I’ve never held a gun.”
The album seems massive at 19 songs, but several of these are musical interludes, with the titles often reflective of the extramusical sounds you’ll hear, like the birds chirping in “Birds Take Off” or the mechanical rumbling of “Airplane Home.”
The album ends with “I Can’t Tear It From Me,” a song that seems to be one of redemption. Every line of the song is unapologetic in its honesty, so much so that a small chunk of the song merits quotation:
Jesus didn’t save me but my grandmother did
She pulled me from the wreckage and made me eat again
She taught me to be strong and to sing my way through things
Without her I would have never learned to love
Whether or not the listener’s life experiences in any way resemble Spoon’s, each listener should come away from My Prairie Home feeling utterly moved.
The album is available tomorrow, August 13. Check out Rae Spoon’s website for more details and for tour dates.
Top Tracks: “Sunday Dress”; “Cowboy”; “How Do You Run?”; “God Was On Your Shoulders”
Rating: Hunting Call (Excellent) +*swoop*