CD REVIEW: Spekki Chris - Spekki Chris Is In
By Alex Jasperse - 03/22/2008 - 10:29 AM EDT
Artist: Spekki Chris
Album: Spekki Chris Is In 
Genre: Jazz-Pop, Folk Rock and Pop
Production/Musicianship Grade: 9.0/10
Songwriting Skills: 10/10
Performance Skill: 9.0/10
If the Dave Matthews Band’s jazzier energy is just right for Friday evenings, and if John Mayer’s emotive singer songwriting croons through lazy Sunday afternoons, then Spekki Chris’s latest – Spekki Chris Is In – is the perfect music for free and easy in-between weekend musical moods.
Spekki’s intoxicating fusion of lush, laid-back songs strikes the perfect balance between the originally melodic and the truly catchy. Amazingly, nowhere is there a hint of commercialization, and with Spekki less concerned about firing off hit singles, his concentration on how the record should sound and feel as a whole brings a strong offering to the jazz/folk-pop table.
If you’re going to fire off an album, why not aim high? Launching into wet wahs and plucked acoustic chords, “Spaceship” begins to expand the jazz-pop framework, pushing at the seams with powerful subtleties: evolving vocal and drum polyrhythms that will immediately set your musical imagination ablaze. With one’s interest captivated by the end of the song, the low-fi opening of “The Last Time” is a bit of a tease, testing the listener to see if they can focus not only on the acoustic guitar bliss, but also keep up with vivid and quickly moving melodies racing ahead. Thankfully, Spekki allows time for the listener to collect their breath from the velocity of the rapidly descending bass and guitar melodies… but it isn’t long before the piece accelerates upwards into the mother of all things amazing about pop choruses, followed by ethereal layered vocal passages and evocative electric guitar interjections.
Elevating James Taylor’s classic singer-songwriter sound to a far more involving degree in “Car Crash,” lines such as “And even my shoelaces look up and tell me / To take a look around,” effectively put the world on pause, inspiring a childlike excitement of discovering the smaller joys in life. Fortunately, the comfortable feeling Spekki creates doesn’t stop right there. Sharing the same title as Feist’s latest hit (minus the pre-adolescent ramblings), Spekki’s own “1 2 3 4” wraps its warm arms around the listener, brilliantly colouring the folk-pop sound with an intoxicating blend of alternating upbeats, smile-inducing accordion lines and masterful guitar finger work.
Sustaining resonance with the listener after an album has finished is not an easy task by any stretch of the imagination. Amazingly, Spekki’s songs last long after they’ve packed up and moved on – a testament to the power of his creative brilliance and emotional sincerity. You can’t help but find yourself falling head over heels for the charm of pieces like “Monkey” that start off as a slow, (almost) wandering ballad which suddenly erupts into an all-out full band feature, racing with guitars, drums and monkey calls. Even the smallest details, such as little melodic drum breaks between the acoustic guitar rhythm in “Sweet Green,” or things as simple as the faint echoes of a vibraphone tracing the song’s progression, are some of the many other details that will feed the desire to revisit the album.
From a technical standpoint, Spekki Chris Is In is gorgeously produced. You can feel the room dissolve into the atmospheres he’s created in works like “Storm Song” through the use of nothing more than a piano and hint of percussion. Additionally, Spekki’s immaculately recorded, mellow, low- to mid-range vocals are never passive or understated, even when they have to compete for attention in works like the acoustic and mandolin-driven, “Kathmandu Kite Flying.”
For a first full-length release, Spekki Chris Is In is astounding. This is a ‘record’ in the truest sense: you won’t ever need to employ the “next” button. While it isn’t anything groundbreaking, the album is far from commercially sour thanks to the fact it easily speaks to both casual listeners and musicians alike. Spekki has created an artistic masterpiece that showcases his ability to write beautiful and engaging songs, which will no doubt be talked about long after the album’s finished. Highly recommended.
The Verdict: 9.3/10
For more information, please visit Spekki’s Chris’s official website.
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