In analyzing Talons of Spring’s release These Little Quakes, I cannot help but think of Sir Isaac Newton’s classic quote,
“If I have seen a little further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.”
Honestly, this album takes the best elements of the last 60 years of psychedelic rock and alternative and distills them down into a highly potent and effective 8-song masterpiece. Talons of Spring wears its influences unabashedly on its sleeve — weaving throughout the album you hear Pink Floyd, The Doors, The Velvet Underground, Jeff Buckley, Exile On Main Street era Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, The Yardbirds, Morphine, Leonard Cohen, and even 90s/early 2000s era Radiohead clear as a bell — as though the band is a prism through which this musical lineage refracts.
Opening with rain and thunder, Undoing sets the stage and foreshadows a lot of the albums themes — heartache and isolation matched to lush atmospheric tones which pay homage to nature and the old gods. Disco Caterpillar, which has already been released as the album’s single, builds off of a drawling blues riff to hit a manic fervor highlighting vocalist Andrei Tutunaru’s range in a warm warble. Following this is Just Another Day, a personal favorite with its fuzzed-out guitars and echoey reverbed vocal intro/outro, which reminds me of chant and church music juxtaposed against a desperate immediacy in the vocals which make up the bulk of the song. The fifth track Sweet By Design seems like another likely candidate as single material, with some of the most upbeat instrumentation contrasted by some of the darkest lyrical content. Sweet By Design also includes quite a lot of this lush, enclosing atmospheric stuff that floats over the rest of the song — a common theme throughout the album and an essential element tying the whole thing together. Mr. Neurotic is lilting and lachrymose and can be easily pointed to as the moment the album enters Act II. Guest vocalist, Bridgette Isabella Semler’s stylings, pair gorgeously with Tutunaru’s in this turning point track where melancholy begins to take hold in full force. In Festipoetal, glass chimes and overall instrumentation have a distinct renaissance feel, and definite wizardry abounds. The album’s closing track Continuum has easily the most ambient, distorted, and broken down sound while focusing heavily on a more spoken word vocal styling bringing about a sense of acceptance and closure.
The song order of this album is entirely flawless, with an opening that encompasses all the significant themes, followed by the albums’ most upbeat content, slowly giving way to more ominous and prophetic tones. Weaving seamlessly throughout the entire work are beautifully understated sax and high enclosing ambient soundscapes, which really give the album a sense of perfect continuity.
Another imposing element of the album’s cohesion is the way it never loses either the upbeat optimism nor the deep-seated foreboding tone, though these contrasting forces trade dominance over the album’s arc.
Any critical look at These Little Quakes would be remiss, not to mention the feat of its production, which beautifully encapsulates techniques perfected throughout the entire history of psychedelic rock. Mastered by the best of the best, this stands as yet another shining example of the prowess of Maine’s own Bob Ludwig, an industry giant who has worked on literally all of your favorite albums. However, mastering isn’t everything, and one must give credit where credit is due — it seems that this album has been years in the making and would be nothing without the steady hand of Micah Davis onboard engineering the mix.
A real magnum opus, These Little Quakes is proof that great things take time. In the classic hypothetical of “desert island albums,” this record will now hold a spot as one of the top contenders on my list. So rarely does one come across a work that innovates precisely by refusing to reinvent the wheel. With These Little Quakes, Talons of Spring says succinctly and concisely what so many others have said before, albeit with the precision of a master philosopher. To all other psych-rock bands — it’s over boys, pack up your things. Everything that needed to be said has now been answered.
JUST KIDDING! Keep making great music, but know that the bar has been reset.
Listen to the album out now then swing over to Portland House of Music tonight for their album release show along with Portland heavyweights, Jeff Beam, and Pretty Sad. And as always stay in the loop at getradplaid.com