A collection of confessions more than sounds, the latest release from Portland, Ore.'s Kind of Like Spitting is terribly depressing, intimately minimalist and oddly engaging.
K.O.L.S. consist primarily of singer/songwriter/guitarist Ben Barnett augmented by various contributors here, bassist Brian Grant and drummer Ben Gibbard (better known as lead singer/guitarist for Seattle indie-pop band Death Cab for Cutie).
The sparse 10-song recording overflows with what most of today's heavily produced, repeatedly mixed pop money-makers lack: honesty and emotion. They say truth lies in simplicity; Barnett's stripped-down songwriting (mainly raw strums of acoustic guitar and dark moans of Barnett) openly confesses his realities.
Barnett's effortless, mournful singing which frequently borders on speak-singing and allows his breathing between notes to be heard comes from both the endurance of loss and misery and the willingness to share such heartache. Often, his low singing feels so personal and intimate as to make listeners feel that he's confessing directly and closely into their ear. Such impassioned, melancholy singing is quite dominant and along with the stupidly simple but remarkably powerful lyrics responsible for the album's intense, sad frankness.
Much of the album slithers at a snail's pace, so slow it feels like the melodic songs might lose the inspiration to carry on, simply give up and stop. This is especially true for opening track "Crossover Potential," which radiates a sense of both hopelessness and understanding while the lonely guitar strums fade in and out: "Is that the brain you want to own?/ ... Your voice is not your own."
"The Thing About Distance" is a swift and light love song, while "March 25, 1998," likely the record's most catchy and soulful track, finds Barnett wailing as if near tears alongside country-tinged guitar riffs. The instrumental, moody closing track, "Canoe," is heart-wrenching for its beautiful inclusion of the crying flute, played by Sandy Shockley.
The emotive, bleak album which the liner notes call "a collection of old songs" is eminently powerful because it's not dressed up, but rather stripped down and slowed down to a point where no sound is to be missed. Not lost in clutter, the sad honesty is divulged through simplicity.