Philly and XPN fav Amos Lee‘s new album Spirit has officially hit the shelves. It’s in stores now and available for streaming via Apple Music. For some of you, that means you’ve probably already listened to the album in its entirety four times. Or, maybe you have Spotify like I do, and don’t have unlimited access to it just yet. Whichever camp you fall under, we thought you might enjoy a quick track-by-track review of what to expect on Lee’s sixth studio album. So here it goes.
“New Love” leads off with the new sound that defines Lee’s latest effort. The folk star breaks out an organ and brass horns for a big band vibe. It sets the tone for the soulful songs that are to come. Next, “Running Out of Time” brings out an acoustic guitar that strums with a folk-pop feel, while a backing choir supplies a gospel effect — which makes sense since the album was recorded in a converted East Nashville church. The choir is silenced on title track “Spirit,” where Lee supplies all the soul needed. Laced with some peaceful piano work, it’s a nice serenade that easily reminds us all of how talented of a singer Lee is.
Things shift in a different direction with what sounds like some synths and a funky beat on “Lost Child.” It has less of a gospel feel and more of almost a Latin one. I’m not sure, but I dig it. “Highways and Clouds,” filled with some wicked guitar licks, brings a slower beat. Lee then tells a sweet narrative on the brief “Lightly,” with a flickering pop tune that clocks in at exactly three minutes. “One Lonely Light” again brings a heavy backing effort from a gospel choir, and again the combo rings with success. Next, “Wait Up For Me” features Lee in a quiet love song with some aptly placed accordion. Although its message says to wait up, its soft spoken melody is like a beautiful lullaby.
“Til You Come Back Through” is a bluesy slow jam where Lee really flexes his pipes, climbing up quite a few notches. The strings are present on “Hurt Me,” a song with a rock chorus. Then some sort of electronic workings come in on a wild hook. And after that, Lee breaks out a rap influence when he channels his inner Schoolboy Q on “Vaporize.” This record is diverse, but these three songs probably articulate such a notion most clearly.
Lee lets his falsetto loose on “Walls.” Sheesh, he can really sing. “With You” is another minimized track focusing on Lee and his guitar. Joyous strings accompany in the background, but Lee’s vocals are still at the forefront. On the bonus tune “New Day,” a bad-to-the-bone country twinge with deep guitar rests below the entire track. Another bonus one, “Don’t Leave Me,” brings it all to a close with soul jam pleading for us to stay. And while we’d love to do so, Spirit is unfortunately over. You have to love hearing those saxophones playing it all home though.
Honesty hour: this brief analysis comes during my first listen to the album, and it’s rare for me to not have my opinion slightly altered after subsequent runs through. But there’s nothing like a first impression, and after just one time through it’s easy to see that Lee didn’t make a mistake on this new approach. The introduction of heavy organ work and brass influence, at least for me, is highly appreciated. He’s a folk singer at heart, but the best artists are able to branch out and succeed in new areas. I think Lee did that here.
Honesty hour, continued: I saw Amos Lee open for Jack Johnson two summers ago, but didn’t get my real first taste of his music until earlier this summer at NonCOMM. I knew the XPN faithful loved his stuff, but I didn’t quite have a grasp of how much until I witnessed how packed World Cafe Live was during his set. People crammed into the tiny downstairs hall, so much so that I myself barely fit into the room. Still, Lee put on a tremendous set and it was something I’ll never forget.
You’ll get a chance to witness that kind of atmosphere when XPN welcomes Amos Lee to Academy of Music on Sunday, September 11th. More information can be found at the XPN Concert Calendar. And if you’re so inclined, you can purchase Spirit here.
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