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The Black Heart Procession - The Spell

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Artist: The Black Heart Procession

Album: The Spell

Label: Touch and Go

Review date: May. 8, 2006

Rock bands tend to suffer from a simple yet glaring problem these days: they sound like robots. Try as they might to generate authentic feelings, you often get the feeling they don’t really feel anything. This sad state of affairs is why it's so marvelous to hear the new album from Pall Jenkins and The Black Heart Procession. The Spell is just that: a magical collection of songs where the lyrics, instruments and voice somehow blend perfectly, matching each other moment to moment to tell the same story, set the same mood. This is not at all to say that the band wears its heart on its sleeve; we're not talking Hollywood here. The music simply and convincingly makes its case, as the best music is wont to do.

And in this instance, The Spell is all about loss and inevitability. "Tangled" starts things off with piano from Tobias Nathaniel and violin by Matt Resovich, before Joe Plummer's drums and Jenkins' guitars kick in. Jenkins sings mournfully of an inescapable relationship, "Trapped in your web I'll always be / Wrapped around my heart like thorns you sting / Tangled in my heart you will stay." By the album's middle we've been taken past the end, as "The Waiter #5" tells us, "I have waited for a spring that never came / You won't be coming back and this is my home / This is my grave." And finally, "To Bring You Back" closes with "When I wake the light seeps in / and I know I have no defense / Something took you away / But the night time will bring you back."

The title track especially stands out, powered by chugging rhythms and some of Jenkins' most earnest, affecting vocals. He sings of his efforts to escape someone’s shadow: "The poison is blinding the streets are all winding / The clocks lose their timing your spell on me has no cure." Nathaniel's guitar and organ, along with Jimmy LaValle's piano, complement the rhythm section to create a moody, propulsive slice of true blues. The chorus breaks, bouyed by Resovich's violin, are brief skyward glances before reality pulls the song back down.

The album is filled with moments like that, surrounded by stories and emotions that ring true. The Spell doesn’t just pass through you; it seeps into you. Without a doubt, one of the best albums I've heard in some time.

By Mason Jones

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