reviewed by Michael Thomas
With a black-and-white cover and an album title of Shadow Songs, the first release from Brittany Brooks under the name Creature Speak could have been an intensely dark and depressing outing—especially because the album is dedicated to her father, who passed away in 2013.
But while there is some more melancholy material here, Brooks instead chooses to mesmerize with simple but powerful folk music. And even songs with more minor chords have an interesting twist to them. As I previous explained, “Phantom Apartment” is a song that sounds spooky on the outside but is actually comforting when you think about it. There are ghosts inhabiting the apartment, but Brooks knows them.
Where she’s not talking about ghosts, however, her music can be awfully refreshing. “My Wolf/My Ghost” in the first few seconds sounds like it could veer off into sadness, but instead gentle percussive brushes joins guitar for a sunny song, forward-marching song. “Olly Oxen Free” is a very physical joyful song, backed by Brooks’ banjo. The lyrics are constantly referring to parts of the body, be it the lungs or the neck.
Which isn’t to say her music is any less compelling when she slows down. “Miss Behaviour” is a quiet and contemplative banjo/accordion song, while “Black Out” seems to be about struggling with yourself to get the right words out.
“Shadow Song” tells a nostalgic tale and later gets a big instrumental boost from producer Joe Lapinski, who kicks in on some pedal steel later on in the song. With the notes and tone Brooks hits here, it could easily fool first-time listeners into thinking they’re experiencing something from Snowblink’s catalogue.
Whether Shadow Songs is bound to earth or floating through the sky, it’s an album about death that also celebrates life. Remembering the good times can be as cathartic as properly grieving.
Top Tracks: “Olly Oxen Free”; “Kerosene Dream”
Rating: Proud Hoot (Really Good)