Review Summary: Far removed from pimples and puberty, coming of age has never been so beautiful
It doesn’t take long to figure out that Everyone I Ever Met
is orchestrated in a different vein than Spokes’ rookie EP, People Like People Like You
. Risks have been taken, and mind you, these aren’t “risks” like we normally think of them. People Like People Like You
was a fairly conventional post-rock EP, but this description belies its beauty. Poor Spokes watched from outside the lines as less-worthy post-rockers enjoyed oodles more fame than they. With soaring violins and condensed song lengths, Spokes crafted a mellifluous Shortcut to Enjoying Post-Rock. Somehow the Englishmen crammed the magic of every spellbinding post-rock record you’ve heard into a delightfully accessible package. Three years later, Spokes sound bent on transforming this winning formula, and unexpectedly it pays off.
Spokes come to age on Everyone I Ever Met
; not by taking risks and turning their sophomore record into an inaccessible-as-Antarctica masterpiece, but by doing the opposite. Spokes take hints from their contemporaries. The main backbone of spiraling guitar lines, minimalist passages with solitary piano, and sweeping violin are all apparent, but its the new facets that give the album momentum and splendor. And trust me, there’s a shortage of neither. Nods to their peers abound, Spokes are all the better for incorporating lovably off-kilter melodies reminiscent of Mew, the wistful folkiness of Fleet Foxes, and even an Arcade Fire-esque chest-beating, anthemic chorus in “We Can Make It Out.” The noisy intro of “Torn Up In Praise” is probably the biggest surprise among surprises, but a welcome one at that. Perhaps the most monumental jump in sound though, besides the fact that the LP is much more chorus and melody driven, resides with the vocals. On People Like People Like You
, vocals were another instrument to add to atmosphere, mostly in the background, and used sparsely. The vocals are a mainstay, and while not uniquely powerful, are always tonality-blessed and graceful enough to add to Spokes’ aura of wide-eyed exuberance on Everyone I Ever Met
I could point to aspect after aspect where Spokes differentiate Everyone
from their debut astounding mini album and come out on top anyway; but it’d be a bit futile, their 2011 effort is confident enough to stand alone, comparisons aside. Cynical listeners will undoubtedly hear Arcade Fire rip-offs or Broken Social Scene copy/pasting where they want to, but they’re missing the point. Imitator or not, Spokes constructs moments on Everyone I Ever Met
more spectacular than that of their influences, and there’s something to be said for that.
The album has a sort of milk-shake consistency, thick and full, but fluid and free-flowing. At times Spokes stroll dangerously close to the brim of “lethargic” or “tepid,” but they always catch themselves before going over the edge. It switches between moods and tempos freely and often, but the flux is never jolting. Long story short-- every likely danger that Spokes confronted with Everyone
, they’ve avoided with grace.
The ever-obvious beauty of Everyone I Ever Met
lies in the fact that it’s just as inclusive as its namesake. In incorporating a plethora of influences, they’ve opened themselves up to more fanfare rather than alienating purists, a tough act to balance. What I find astounding is that the affair is in no way transitional. Mishmashes of genres and influences risk the chance of coming off half-baked or unnatural, but this couldn’t be farther from the truth with Spokes. The spacious, gleeful album is epic in an entirely different way than the conventional post-rock structure of People Like People Like You
, but only impresses more because of it. Skill was apparent on their debut, but Everyone I Ever Met
matches the skill with maturity and novelty that Spokes embody in a spacious, percussion-driven record. Coming of age has never seemed so beautiful.