"Songs in A & E" by Spiritualized (2008)
Awesome and Essential
Songs in A & E (short for accident and emergency) is Spiritualized's first album in five years, though I'm sure one man band Jason Pierce wouldn't have wanted it that way if he could have helped it. You see, Pierce suffered a life threatening case of double pneumonia in 2005 that left him bed ridden in the accident and emergency ward of a hospital and the only things that kept him going were working on this new record while laid up (much the same way Cat Stevens wrote his Seminal ablums). Pierce also worked on the score to the new Harmony Korine movie Mr. Lonely (six instrumental tracks here all bearing the name "Harmony 1-6" - a wink to that work).
It's unfortunate that a near death experience threatened Pierce, but for us the listener, this experience certainly inspired a record that far outweighs it's affable 2003 predecessor Amazing Grace. Pierce knows how close he came to death and most of this album deals with that topic without restraint. "Death Take Your Fiddle" with its ventilator whooshing in the background and vocals that sound almost pained by Pierce will make every hair stand up on the back of your neck. The seven-minute centerpiece of the album, "Baby I'm Just A Fool," trades barbs of acoustic guitar and marimbas until about the three-minute mark and then the strings, horns and drums escalate it into one of the best Spiritualized compositions ever. Following track "Don't Hold Me Close" is a quiet, understated beauty that almost entirely consists of Pierce delicately crooning over minimal organ to gorgeous effect. Those two tracks back to back prove that no matter how grandiose or how minimal Jason Pierce feels at any given time, his power and emotion always shines through. Songs in A&E is as good or even better than I could have hoped for and considering his multiple past masterpieces, as an avid fan, I can't help but feel spoiled.
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