In Laurel Sprengelmeyer’s short time as a performer under the Little Scream moniker she’s gone from singing over her own acoustic guitar to enjoying the backing of a full band. A strong release from a solo artist is only ever about one thing: the artist. With her performance on her d�but album The Golden Record she demonstrates this perfectly. While featuring some strong arrangements, the most impressive part of The Golden Record is her vocal performance, and not because she has a amazing voice – it’s above average at best – but because she manages to imbue each lyric with a pathos and earnestness that makes them all feel important and worth listening to.
The Golden Record isn’t immediately spellbinding, but Little Scream has managed to distinguish herself from the crowded genre she inhabits. While often the music is just a step away from the basic folk template, that extra effort into her vocal performance makes the album memorable. She’s at her strongest when she takes centre stage, and in the most desolate, lonely tracks this comes naturally, but her vocals soar above the other instruments in the busier songs too, commanding attention.
Unlike in her earlier, stripped down performances, there is now rather more going on within her music. Basic guitar work has been replaced by the sounds a diverse band can produce. So, The Golden Record has more to rely on than merely a strong vocal performance, though the band takes nothing away from the singer. The album is at it’s best when it is doing something more than the standard folk song, and its occasionally lush instrumentation complements and enriches.
Yet when it tries to do something more, it falls somewhat short. The music has a tendency to swell up to big crescendos so often that they end up underwhelming. Despite some pleasing choral singing, and delightfully twangy guitars (provided by The National‘s Aaron Dessner on The Heron And The Fox), it overall lacks inspiration and ends up sounding rather limp.�
There is some very nice stuff here. The aforementioned The Heron And The Fox is a wonderfully laid back folk song, while Red Hunting Jacket ends up as a PJ Harvey-esque romp. There is strong musical progression, though Little Scream is at her best when she’s taking control of a busier song, for in truth the quieter, acoustic guitar driven tracks have a tendency to pall.
Despite these weak areas, Little Scream has turned what could have been a demure little album into a work that frames her strong performance and attempts to provide something extra. Uncontent with sitting at the back, Little Scream actively demands attention. While The Golden Record is far from perfect, and occasionally falters and fails to make the impression it should, there is much to recommend here.