Published Aug 14, 2019Rae Spoon understands human emotions — that they're messy, and not always well-defined in an easy, cut and dried way. This much is clear from their tenth album, Mental Health, which walks quite an ambivalent emotional line, digging into the grey areas between happiness and heartbreak (with perhaps a little more emphasis on the latter).
These ambiguous sentiments are served up with a heavier sound than on Spoon's more recent releases, eschewing acoustic folkiness for a more beat-driven rock sound. The pivot is mostly well-executed: the opener, "Go Away," immediately reveals a relatively bouncy beat, mellowed out just the right amount by Spoon's plaintive vocals.
Spoon's voice is often a highlight: the slow-jam-esque "Blaring" (in tidy tandem with BC singer-songwriter Northcote) is melodically soulful. On "Again + Again + Again," Spoon manages to channel a repetitive beat and near-monotone vocals into something unexpectedly mesmerizing (with the help of some smooth layering).
Mental Health isn't without flaws; on at least two tracks, the ambivalent tone feels too neutral, resulting in some flatness. "I Can't Sleep" is one such case, a fairly simple rock track that feels like somewhat of a throwback to ten years ago. It's serviceable, but feels like it's fence-sitting in an emotional sense. Later on, "Money" has a compelling beat, but gets lost among some almost unpleasantly atonal vocals, and a general overload of sonic elements that could leave listeners wishing for some more careful editing and mixing.
But by closer "There's No End," these problems are almost forgotten — it's a big, theatrical closer for an album that takes some risks, and mostly succeeds. (Coax)