The Spring Standards - Would Things Be Different
I just listened to an advance copy of The Spring Standards' forthcoming debut LP, Would Things Be Different. This talented band on the rise boasts the musical virtuosity of James Cleare, Heather Robb and James Smith, immeasurably talented and beautiful people all. I've heard, live in concert and on other demos, versions of eight of the eleven songs on this record (maybe even all of them if memory fails.) While I liked all the songs when I heard them before, I really like them all now that they've been worked on and fleshed out.
The song "Trouble", for instance, now has a rousing bridge. As I was listening, I thought that that didn't fit but when the song finished, I realized just how powerful that was. “Trouble” is a down-tempo emotional song. The first time I heard Heather sing this (at Rockwood Music Hall in February 2008) she sounded like she was crying as she sang the last three lines. She doesn't sound like she's crying on this recording but there is certainly still tons of emotion in her voice. Those last three lines are actually very sad so the bridge preceding it makes the slow and quiet ending – and those last few lyrics – even more potent.
“Bells and Whistles” was already one of my favorite Spring Standards songs. James Cleare wrote a beautiful lyric and a stirring melody but what I love most about it is that the song doesn't end when the lyrics do. "Layla"-style, the music keeps going because the song isn't finished telling its story just yet. Bravo to the uber-talented trio for exploring and writing the song they meant to write rather than something that fit into the box. I also really like the song “Frozen”. This is one of the few songs that I'd never heard before listening to the record. As I was listening, I thought, "This sounds kind of like The Eagles except it doesn't suck. In fact, it's really good!” (Below is a track listing and my first impressions of most of the songs.)
The great thing about The Spring Standards recording and really working on these songs is that there's orchestrations to them. James, Heather and James all play several instruments simultaneously when they play live, but even given their multitasking talents, there are limits to the sounds they can make. On Would Things Be Different, they enlist the help of other musicians to fill out the songs, adding violins and fiddles, snaps, sighs, tubas, wurlitzers and more.
On their debut full length album, The Spring Standards have fun with different styles while wandering through themes of love, regret, hopefulness and pride. In their songs, you can hear The Spring Standards’ influences and yet James, Heather and James manage to write their own songs and sound like themselves, rather than sounding like something unoriginal or derivative. The best part is knowing that the three consumate musicians are extremely talented, that these sounds didn't come out of auto-tunes or some sound board and that James, Heather and James are genuinely in love with their "jobs" and so palpably appreciative and grateful for their fans. I'm appreciative and grateful to call myself one of their fans. Would Things Be Different is an entirely great record and a sign of many more good things to come from The Spring Standards.
- Skyline – a great, poppy way to start the album
- Here I Am - beginning borrows a sample from Pink Floyd's "Money"
- Queen of the Lot
- Halcyon Days – old timey country/folksy charm; I feel like I should be sitting on a porch with a basset hound and a jug of sweet tea
- Bells and Whistles – beautiful
- Not Again - 80s synth pop with anthemic sing along chorus
- Frozen – an intimate folk-rocking good time
- Sharks – actually has an early 60s girl group Ellie Greenwich-ish roll to it
- The Hush – lush with fiddles and strings and toys
- Unravel Unwind – great lyric