On their last album, 2013’s autobiographical musical/memoir My Prairie Home, Rae Spoon took a long, hard look backward, from growing up queer in a Pentecostal family in the middle of Canada’s prairie, schooled in synths and dance music in the bars and clubs, to thickening their skin while living on the road playing the country bar and folk circuits, becoming one of the finest singers Canada has ever turned out. My Prairie Home was as much about Spoon’s search for the authentic self, through all the identities they’ve had along life’s journey, as it was the experiences that shaped them.
That project has in some way, marked the end of one stage in Spoon’s career, and wiped the slate clean, making Armour, their new album, the most Rae Spoon has ever sounded like Rae Spoon. Wearing all those layers at once–acoustic instruments, electronic programming; poppy dance rhythms and hymn-like balladry; that unmistakable voice–Spoon sounds settled in their own skin, allowing these new songs to soar with confidence and clarity.
Unassailable, unflinching, and unafraid to make the personal private, the 10 songs on Armour are all about the audacity of hope. From the opening title song, when Spoon declares “There’s no amount of damage / that we can’t withstand. / We are not made to be broken / even by our own hands,” to album closer “Try Again at Everything” when they poignantly sing “I will wear your grandmother’s ring / and try again at everything. / I do not trust the ground, but I float above it when you’re around,” Armour resonates with Spoon’s own trials and with universal themes of perseverance and self-discovery. You’re never meant to know for certain whether the “we” they refer to is another person or another facet of Spoon themselves.
Armour is the ultimate “It Gets Better” story, one that never minimizes or trivializes the bullshit you have to go through to get to the place where you can look directly at the future and not be blinded by your past. “I would not have believed / when I failed life and it failed me,” Spoon says on “Try Again at Everything”, “That I could find a family / when I thought it was so out of reach.” Spoon has learned that whatever doesn’t kill us will certainly leave us wounded, changed in some way, but it’s in allowing our wounds to heal that we move forward, as a person and an artist.
Rae Spoon, Armour
Coax Records, February 19, 2016