Independent Spotlight is a continuing series on Stewart’s blog. The series revolves around independent artists and bands sending their music to Brett to review. No band is promised a positive review, and all music is reviewed honestly in an effort to better independent music.
In this afternoon’s edition of the Independent Spotlight, we shine our gaze on Amilia K Spicer, an independent singer songwriter that’s best classified into the ever-growing “Americana” genre. Her new record, ‘Wow and Flutter,’ has recently been released boasting a bevy of impressive collaborations with session musicians that have worked with the likes of Bob Dylan, the Foo Fighters, Bonnie Raitt, and more.
At twelve tracks long, ‘Wow and Flutter’ is a bold statement for an independent artist. While Spicer runs into issues with this on the tail end, the collection is largely very intriguing. Her sound elegantly mixes country and folk with hints of bluegrass and outlaw music. She’s somewhat reminiscent of, perhaps, Holly Williams or Justin Townes Earle. The opening of her new album is also its lead single, ‘Fill Me Up.’
‘Fill Me Up’ is splendid on several levels. The instrumentation is hauntingly beautiful. The vocal harmonies, especially toward the end, evoke Beatles-esque influence on top of thick Americana vibes. Her voice is as delicate as it powerful, exercising perfect command over a soundscape full of various stringed instrumentation. From guitars to violins, ‘Fill Me Up’ is true to name: it fills the space up with a waterfall of personality.
‘Harlan’ also draws back some sonic lineage to Lucinda Williams, I’d argue, with vocals that often evolve into soft, indecipherable croons. Spicer’s lyrics and atmospheres are equally vivid, and section at 4:00 is one of the most remarkable moments on ‘Wow and Flutter.’ There’s an ethereal, ghostly quality to ‘Harlan.’ Similarly, there’s an emotional weight to ‘This Town,’ a surprisingly non-cliche exploration of a small home town setting.
Continuing in the vein of her record label whose slogan is “don’t fence me in,” Spicer pens an ode to the open road and freedom on ‘Shotgun.’ The soft acoustic instrumentation serves Spicer very well on that track, and it’s a tune best listened to on a quality sound system to hear the intricacy of the sound samples in the backdrop. ‘Lightning,’ the following song, then digs its heels into a love ballad with rather beautiful imagery. Again, Spicer navigates territory that can often enter the realm of cliche very well.
The melancholy, vulnerable ‘Train Wreck’ is an excellent halfway point to the record. Spicer thrives particularly well with more soft-spoken material, something that’s complemented wonderfully by her expressive vocals. The album’s most suave song, however, must surely be ‘Shake It Off.’ The swagger in Spicer’s performance is palpable, and this is accented breathtakingly by the organ performance on the song.
There’s a gorgeous aura of reassurance to ‘Windchill,’ a song that’s almost lullaby-like in nature. The song could be as much of a lullaby to a child as it could a serenade to a romantic interest. When ‘Wow and Flutter’ has come and gone for the listener, ‘Windchill’ be one of the experiences that sticks around most poignantly. (Though ‘Down To The Bone’ is captivating, too, because it scores Spicer with a piano instead of stringed instrumentation, which is especially intriguing.)
‘Wild Horses’ isn’t a Rolling Stones cover, though one can’t help but imagine what Spicer would do with such a task. Instead, it’s an Americana jaunt through sly steel guitar and sparse lyricism that explores introspective navel-gazing via a horse metaphor. ‘Wild Horses’ is a track that probably could have been left on the cutting room floor; it’s just too similar to its predecessors and makes ‘Wow and Flutter’ meander too much toward its finale.
‘What I’m Saying,’ fortunately, has some more pep in its step. It’s exactly what the album needs near the end, since long sequences the likes of ‘Windchill, ‘Down To The Bone,’ and ‘Wild Horses’ can get a bit drab. ‘What I’m Saying’ offers some much needed intensity to the album. It can get your foot tapping, and not much of ‘Wow and Flutter’ offers that.
The pensive ‘Shine’ probably could have been left in the studio, too, since ‘What I’m Saying’ would have been a perfect finale. ‘Wow and Flutter’ is a very good record. In fact, it’s comparably superior to the vast majority of Americana records in the indie scene. The production and performances are incredible. Often, though, the songs blur together. Spicer gently sings as tender instrumentation backs her. For a twelve song album, there just isn’t enough variation in the sonic palette to warrant such a lengthy release.
Even though it could have been tighter as a six or eight track release, ‘Wow and Flutter’ is very much worth a listen if you have a penchant for Americana music. Again, it’s a whole lot better than its counterparts and Spicer should be proud of her album. It’s excellent despite its forgivable flaws.