Heidi Spencer and the Rare Birds latest, Under Streetlight Glow, was deliberately and lovingly constructed. Throughout the album Spencer carefully chooses when and how fill the listeners ears; often deciding that silence is the best way to mark a point of emphasis, aid a transition, or allow time for an idea to sink in. There is, indeed, room on this album for the artist’s words and ideas to stand out. Most elegant about the elbowroom on this album, is that Spencer is no less steadfast than many artists who use a great deal more sound to express themselves. Like a conversation with a close friend, there are natural pauses and quiet moments — Spencer sees nothing wrong with this, and neither do I.
The first two songs have a feeling of anticipation that reminds me of the last few kilometers of a long trip home. Her vocals are curt and her band — the Rare Birds — are conspicuously quiet, leaving the listener wanting. Luckily, she delivers many more vocal inflections and instrumental flourishes as she settles into the middle of the album. Though the tenor remains calm and clear, and the Rare Birds turn up their collective volume. Piano parts warm-up and become endearing; electric guitar flickers and shines; and backing vocals are trailing vines for Heidi’s well-controlled vibrato. On tracks 8 and 9, the band backs off again so she can put the finishing touches on the mood of the album — each is a bit quieter and notably down-tempo. The last song gives a sense of completion with confident strums, the band at full volume, and triumphant vocals.
The deliberate and thoughtful music on Under Streetlight Glow will provide sure footing for her work with her new label. This being said, I hope she allows herself to explore the opportunities provided by the solid work of the Rare Birds on this album.
Words: Pablo Quesada