Spencer Kent had his album release party on September 10 at the Aura Nightclub in Studio City.
It was the first time he performed his album, The Optimist, with a full band, so spirits were high and everyone had a really good time.
Just this week, he and his crew put The Optimist up on iTunes, so if you were curious to hear the music that I recommended so highly a few weeks ago, it’s now just a few clicks away.
The album starts out with the acoustic strumming of Spoiled Gut, a slamming number that serves as a head-turning intro to the record. The song is very upbeat, and the electric guitar providing the driving melody gives it a vibrant sense of life. Many of the people who heard The Optimist before it was released said this was frequently their favorite song, so it’s definitely one you’ll want to check out.
That song leads into You Never Say Anything Nice, a tender song formed in the wake of a troubled relationship (you know the feeling, I’m sure). It’s a melancholy type of song that reminds me bit of Jimmy Eat World, due to its wordplay and the emotional resonance Spencer’s vocals elicit. It also has an almost country-ish feel to it, thanks to the twangy guitars and Kent’s soaring vocals.
That song in particular represents the personal nature of The Optimist; most of the songs’ lyrical content and themes are loosely (or not-so-loosely) based on things Spencer has gone through in his life. There isn’t any contrived, inauthentic subject matter here, it’s all 100% emotion and grit, packed into relentlessly catchy, well-crafted tunes that have a lot more going for them than just catchy melodies (which are there, don’t get me wrong).
Spencer really shares his innermost feelings and thoughts on this record. Songs like Dead as a Dog and Scalpel have such an introspective feel to them that at times it feels like you’re hearing a dude sing his personal diary to you. It’s like audio-voyeurism, presented by the man himself (so you don’t have to feel guilty).
Must-See TV is one of the album’s best points, a riff-tastic, radio-ready tune with a theme that belies its upbeat and peppy sound. The jarring guitar chords and cascading chorus of voices give it a vibrant energy that make it one of the album’s standout tracks, for sure.
Purpose of Breath and Molly Works the Night Shift are more upbeat songs with darker lyrical content, a combination that Spencer likes to use frequently. Purpose, concerning life’s hardships, and Molly, about, well, Molly working the night shift for dirty transients with “briefcases of blood”, demonstrate Kent’s skill as a lyricist, telling stories that demand attention and setting them to memorable, hooky songs that embed themselves in your head.
The last three tracks on the record, Oblivion, Cliches, and The Optimist, close out the record with a proverbial bang. Oblivion has an Incubus-y feeling to it, with some guitar reverb creating a soundscape that suits lines like I’m a rag doll getting clean/ Spinning around in your washing machine perfectly.
Cliches is my favorite moment on the album; its flat-out gorgeous piano melody creates a haunting atmosphere of music, one where Kent again bares his feelings and allows his voice to be the star. No guitars this time around, the song is a showcase for his voice, and it does so in impressive fashion.
The Optimist, the epic album-closer title track, is another storytelling song adopting the “scorned lover” persona that Kent assumes for the album; strings and violin arrangements play off of his voice effectively, allowing his voice to be the star once again.
With The Optimist, Spencer Kent has really made quite a statement; that a songwriter was capable of something this polished without the aid of a label or much outside help is great. He cites Radiohead, Elliott Smith, Thrice and Brand New among his musical inspirations, and such inspiration is reflected in the songs on The Optimist.
With all the stuff out there being considered “good music”, it’s great to see an artist like Spencer Kent get out there and try to inject some more authenticity and real, honest, emotions into the music world.
Check out his website at www.spencerkent.net if you’d prefer a physical CD to iTunes downloads, and to keep an eye on any upcoming live gigs.