As long as I’m going to quote someone it may as well be my favorite writer - me. Way back in ’09 I was reviewing Spree Wilson’s EP Evil Angel and struggling to come up with a comparison that would allow readers to truly understand his sound, when I realized there simply was no comparison: “If Spree has been consistently compared to Andre 3000, and he has, it’s mostly because there are simply so few options. Spree sounds like Andre, or Gnarls Barkley, or Janelle Monae or whomever else not necessarily because he actually sounds …
DJBooth Album Review
Besides the fact that we can now add B.o.B to the list of artists Spree will be not-quite-accurately compared to, frankly not much has sonically changed for the man over the past two years. Sure he’s now got some major label backing behind him, but as his new album The Never Ending Now shows, he’s as committed to genre-breaking as ever, switching styles faster than Kim Kardashian switches black athletes. However, in the time since I last reviewed his work he has continued to strengthen his musical identity, giving him enough gravity to hold the diverse array of musical influences inside the same orbit. You know, kind of like Cee Lo’s become able to do…if we were to do the comparison thing.
This is, after all, primarily a hip-hop site, so we might as well start off by taking a look at the times when beats and rhymes most prominently weave their way into The Never Ending Now, starting with Transition. Of course Transition is far from your usual “rap” song, its base is a guitar line and rolling percussion and Novel contributes a trademark soul/r&b hook, but Spree’s verses are straight hip-hop, touching on in a lightly melodic, rhythmic intonation. In other words, he’s exactly like Rick Ross, only the complete opposite. From there the straight bars are few and far between, cropping up most noticeably on Love You Better, one of the darker cuts on the album, and on the trippy Where Do We Go Tonight, which is about as close to a rap “beat” as The Never Ending Tomorrow contains (seriously, brave enough could absolutely destroy this beat). All that means that while Spree is a rapper in the sense that he can legitimately rap, he’s not a rapper in the sense that all he can do is rap.
That leaves a lot of room left on the Never Ending Now to explore. While the album contains easily enjoyable records that draw on everything from country to mod rock, personally the closer Spree gets to an acoustic ballad the more I like him. More specifically, Don’t Pass Me By is a beautiful, beautiful song. Pass Me By is the type of song someone who didn’t understand a word of English would still understand perfectly; it’s sense of soft longing is everywhere, from Spree’s vocals to the muted guitar lines. While Pass Me By is easily the album’s most stripped down song Wilson’s ability to craft simply powerful pop is evident throughout the project, from the up-tempo yet still understated I Believe She’s Lying to the hypnotic Nobody, which I’ve been perfectly pleased to have stuck in my head for the past few hours. We’ve come this far with the comparisons, I might as well continue…these songs are like Superdrag and the Beach Boys had a baby, and then that baby was raised by Citizen Cope. And yes, I’m aware that didn’t really make sense.
A wise man once said the middle is where you go to die (that wise man was me) and so if Spree Wilson is to eventually be as good as The Never Ending Now suggests he could be, he’ll need to keep pushing deeper into misfit status. Take us somewhere completely new and we will follow, but take us somewhere we already are, only slightly different, and we’ll just stay home. If that sounds overly metaphorical blame Spree Wilson. The Never Ending Now has me feeling figurative, and it’s simply not easy to describe an artist who’s so far beyond comparison.
DJBooth Rating - 4 Spins
Written by Nathan S. on 04/15/11
First DJ Booth Appearance:
"I Am ft. Talib Kweli & Spree Wilson" (2008)
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