Album and concert review, Paradiso, Amsterdam, October 2nd 2011
Every now and then something happens to remind you just how cursedly Dutch you are. The European tour of Montreal’s singer-songwriter Little Scream already had a financially challenging closing night, without me getting her to give a € 5 discount on a € 20 glow-in-the-dark T-shirt. I suspect that the reason for last night’s poor turn up was notably un-Dutch. Record-breaking temperatures made it difficult to pass all those luring terraces along the way over to the Paradiso. Still, about 30 people manage to join Laurel Sprengelmeyer and her two backing musicians in the musty small room of the Paradiso and we are rewarded
The Golden Record is the title of Little Scream’s debut album. It was released this April on Secretly Canadian, the label of Gardens & Villa and the War of drugs, two bands that recently featured on the fuzz. The album is an exciting mix of highly sensitive singer-songwriter material and experimental folk-rock. Montreal’s alt. rock scene being a snug community, it’s no surprise that many local musicians contributed to the Golden Record, amongst whom members of Arcade Fire and Belle Orchestre.
The first thing that struck me, listening to the album is Sprengelmeyer distinct vocal style, most notably The Heron & the Fox. The frailty of her voice during the high pitched chorus makes me feel uncomfortable in a wonderful way. The image of Little Scream as a delicate flower was enhanced by the video clip for The lamb, The Golden Records opening song. Sprengelmeyer’s misty eyes suggest that she’s about to do a Sinéad o’Conner on us.
The real life Little Scream on the stage of Paradiso’s small room appears anything but frail. Feisty is more like. She’s frequently standing on her toes in her red Nikes and comes across much more eager and energetic than you would expect from listening to recorded work. Not that The Golden Record is reticent album, but Little Scream live is definitely more Rock’n’roll than Little Scream on record, down to the odd pre-80 Aerosmith cover. Sprengelmeyer plays a mean electric guitar that dominates Little Scream’s live sound whenever she’s not doing the sensitive folk-ballad thing she does so well.
The song Your Radio is put in a different light tonight. On the Golden Record it’s a pleasing reverberating Cocteau twins-style song that sounds like it’s been recorded in a church hall. The drumming at the end reminds me of OMD’s famous Maid of Orleans ruffle, but standing here right in front of Little Screams drummer, without a veil of reverb between us, it just sounds fierce. After the deliciously raw version of Cannons I wonder if The Golden Record, despite being a great album, isn’t perhaps a little bit over-produced, by that guy from Arcade Fire. Another example are the vocal harmonies and keyboard parts on the studio version of Cannons, only tonight I discover that they are disguising a keen guitar-riff that ought not to be disguised.
Of course at Indiefuzz we always find something to be critical of. Sprengelmeyer’s Snowwhite pitch during The Heron & the Fox isn’t always on key and the song Guyegaros is just as frugal, played live as it is on record. These are minor flaws in an otherwise great set that deserves a larger audience, even on a warm October night. Little Scream arren’t bothered and don’t hold back. ‘I am glad you are here’ it says on the glow-in-the dark T-shirt I bought. I would have paid € 20 for it, but since I only had € 15 on me and realized that unsold t-shirts meant extra luggage for the band to take back to Montreal the next day, I didn’t protest when Sprengelmeyer told me to leave the € 5. Like her performance, it was a win-win situation. That’s the VOC mentality.