It doesn’t feel quite right to say that Lovespirals is merely the new incarnation of Love Spirals Downwards, even though it’s pretty obvious why folks (myself included) would say that — and not just because of the name similarities.
While founder/songwriter Ryan Lum has largely eschewed the gothic/darkwave overtones of his previous band, there’s still no denying that the ghosts of acts such as the Cocteau Twins still haunt their way through Lovespirals’ Long Way From Home. One need only to listen to hazy guitar strums or shimmery effects on “Empty Universe,” “Treading The Water,” or “Sundrenched” for that to become readily apparent.
And then there’s Anji Bee’s vocals. Bee — who, according to the band’s bio, possesses the “the sexiest voice in podcasting” — lets her voice drift and sway through the album’s ten tracks in a manner recalling Love Spirals Downwards’ previous vocalists (such as Suzanne Perry), Liz Frazier (minus the glossolalia), and even Tracey Thorn (Everything But The Girl). You know what I’m talking about: a manner that is seductive, not so much for its sultriness and smokiness, but for its ethereal and otherworldly nature.
All that being said, however, Long Way From Home is far more straightforward than anything Lum (and his various collaborators) has done to date — especially when compared to the Projekt days. While there are certainly echoes of those early darkwave records, replete with their Victorialand influences, Long Way From Home also blends in more forthright pop, jazz, Americana, and even blues for good measure.
This approach does lend the album a light, deft touch that feels something like a crisp spring breeze in both its tone and electic-ness. The duo pull the music off effortlessly, with Lum’s lush production and guitar effects providing a gorgeous, sunlit backdrop for Bee’s vocals.
Occasionally, though, there is a stumble, which mainly occurs when the duo attempt to inject a little grit into their music — e.g., their cover of the classic spiritual, “Motherless Child.” Bee’s voice is better suited to flitting and floating, and so the more soulful approach here just doesn’t quite work as well. But those moments are few and far between, and oftentimes, are brushed aside as soon as the next lovely swell or ethereal vocal harmony comes wafting from the speakers.
Some folks might also dismiss Lovespirals’ music as too light and airy to be of any substance. And while it may be true that you won’t find anything soul-shattering on the album, that rather misses the point I think.
Ultimately, Lum and Bee are all about creating a mood with their music, a relaxed and blissed-out vibe that should be no stranger to fans of dreampop, chill-out electronica, and atmospheric pop. This is music for both late night sessions and noon daydreams, for both listening to at work when you need to escape the pressure of the day and at home when you simply need to unwind with a good book and a glass of wine. From that perspective, Long Way From Home succeeds pretty well.