reviewed by Michael Thomas
Given how intensely personal Rae Spoon’s previous album, My Prairie Home, was, you’d be forgiven for thinking an album called Armour is also going to be inward-looking. Far from it. This record builds up walls only to show how unnecessary and stifling they can be. By the end of it, most of those walls have been broken down, and it’s fairly obvious what the key ingredient to shedding that armour is. But I’ll get to that.
Spoon returns to the world of the electronic a la I Can’t Keep All Of Our Secrets after dipping their toes in many genres for My Prairie Home, but it’s clear that this album is their most mature yet. The electronic soundscapes have been pared back a little, being as sparse or as throbbing as they need to be. The faster the pace, the seemingly darker the subject matter.
The album’s title track explains, essentially, the album’s premise—amid woozy synths and vocal modifications, Spoon sings of the armour we place around ourselves, giving up bits of ourselves in the process. We often make our own armour so thick that we aren’t even capable of getting it off.
For a while, it seems like the album will continue to dwell in the dark. “I Hear Them Calling” draws on particularly dark synth-pop, “Can’t Go Right” resigns itself to things gone wrong, and the restrained “Wrestles With Death” gets no solace from the stars and the sea.
Album highlight “Stolen Song” feels like the most overtly autobiographical song on the song. “If you grew up in a nothing town where they sing the same song, every house, then I can see what made you so hungry,” Spoon sings to open the song, over a simple drum machine beat and a fairly steady loop of guitar, and it no doubt speaks to the experience of almost anyone who desperately wants to completely re-make their image.
But after the brief “The Beast is Me,” things start to look up. “Flood” is the antithesis of “Armour,” especially with the first few lines acknowledging how one person’s presence can immediately strip of all armour and crumble all fortresses. And finally it all clicks into place with “Go For the Kill”—that one thing that we should make a part of our body and eliminate the need for armour? Love. It’s especially satisfying as the music slowly builds up, starting with drum machine and gradually adding in more layered synths.
And then there’s hope for the future in “Trying Again at Everything,” which starts with a moan of synths paired with deep, dark-sounding percussive sounds as the narrator resolves to rejoin the world with the help of a loved one.
Armour is a journey of self-discovery that doesn’t need to spend too long looking inward. It’s a welcome reminder to let people in.
Top Tracks: “Armour”; “Stolen Song”; “Go For the Kill”
Rating: Proud Hoot (Really Good) +*swoop*