Review Summary: An album with a Midas touch - every idea, no matter how awkward, turns to gold.
Unfortunately, there is absolutely no way of describing what Little Scream (aka Laurel Sprengelmeyer) does, or how she sounds, without making her sound like a try-hard, an artist that hits as many genres as possible in a box-ticking exercise that's more about impressing people or giving critics easy tag-lines than writing anything with substance or style. After all, it's not often you get to describe something as 'Sigur Ros goes country' without intending it as an insult.
Yet just two or three tracks of the aptly-named The Golden Record
is enough to make it completely obvious that Little Scream's diversity is all about following her own muse wherever it takes her rather than playing genre hopscotch for childish thrills. It's actually not until the album's over that the amount of ground it covers really sinks in - it flows from one soundworld into another so naturally and seamlessly that it's easy not to notice. And it's not just about the way she switches between genres, but how intelligently she blends them, too - the aforementioned 'Sigur Ros goes country' section sees their dynamics, washes of sound, and hushed drumming paired with pedal steel guitar, in a way that makes it sound like the most natural fit in the world.
All this is achieved by a consistency to the songcraft and mood that in turn makes the music feel consistent too, even when shooting off on tangents. The Golden Record
feels like a deeply nostalgic album, but one that's restless, too; it yearns for a better time, but knows that looking to a better past for inspiration is as dangerous and fruitless as simply standing still. Fairport Convention's delicate masterpiece "Who Knows Where the Times Goes" is called to mind more than once, as is Mazzy Star's similarly hushed and lovely So Tonight That I Might See
Dreamy, lush, yearning, and inventive, The Golden Record
is an album that flirts with flaws and pitfalls without ever being in danger of succumbing to them. It's surely going to go down as one of this year's finest achievements for me - it's not often an album comes along that reaches this far beyond the confines of its genre (whatever genre that might be - singer/songwriter and art pop seem equally appropriate, while there are smattering of shoegaze, indie pop, folk, and dream pop throughout) without resorting to tokenism or pretence, and that's exactly what this does. Brilliant stuff.