Highlights: Heavy Hands, Winter Solstice, Hector, Blank Maps
“Doom soul” is the way the lady herself (singer-songwriter Al Spx) describes her style, and it would be hard to argue with that. Whatever is going on musically as well as lyrically on I Predict A Graceful Expulsion comes off extremely resonating – but intensely, insistently cold (hence “Cold Specks”). Cold and gloomy. If this description doesn’t sound too exciting (and it shouldn’t), let me just tell you that this is one of the most original, singular debut albums you will hear all year.
Even though the LP is filled with most gorgeous, affecting tunes, the whole thing is largely about the singing. Which is, in a word, remarkable. Not easy to pin down, it’s somewhat reminiscent of people like PJ Harvey and, amazingly, Tom Waits (obviously I’m talking about her manner of singing, not her actual voice). Soulful and possessing some unmistakably creepy, creeping, deep undertones that really get under your skin. Especially when drenched in haunting piano lines and effective, understated violins. It’s hard to overlook such beguiling, mesmerizing intros like the ones on “Hector” or “Blank Maps”.
I Predict A Graceful Expulsion is a near-perfect collection of eleven dark, slightly bluesy ballads. Not spooky, just moody and dark. And sounding quite unlike anything that is released these days. I’d go for a nine if it contained another two or three songs as outstanding as “Winter Solstice” (which could almost beat Nico’s “Winter Song” in terms of those windy, wintry vibes), but this is a fantastic achievement.