[Album Review] Little Scream- Cult Following
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Release Date: May 6th, 2016
Label:  Dine Alone Records / Merge Records

The cult following that Little Scream thinks about isn’t the kind involving laced Kool Aid and day-long stand-offs with the law. It’s more so the kind from the final episode of Mad Men, one where auras dominate and people are each other’s keepers. Much like these ideas, there is an odd, yet pleasurable sensation to Laurel Sprengelmeyer’s melodies on Cult Following. For the Montreal artist with the kind of ferocious stage name, the expansive world of the fairytale is created to capture a feeling. But there’s nothing brittle or childish about such an imagined land.

If anything, the way Sprengelmeyer guides us along is the way we wished we were led when we were children. After being told to cherish every moment, we shrug it off, not knowing what the heck our storyteller was so cautious about. She knows all too well how to weave a track to make it effective. When dealing with poppy tunes a la Prince or ABBA, the musician doesn’t disappoint. If she wanted to channel something akin to Marissa Nadler or Regina Spektor, then she can build the foundation to it. She is, however, a unique muse, and although cameos are abound–Sufjan Stevens, Sharon van Etten, and James Murphy are a few names–they are mostly afterthoughts to the emotion cradled by Sprengelmeyer.

While there are tracks that one could groove to, the main heart of Cult Following is its intimacy with emotional sensibilities. “Dark Dance” is wonderfully poppy, yet its true power lies in how it can generate the image of a sunrise and sundown with its melodies. Sprengelmeyer is so in touch with nature that a heavy downpour of rain wouldn’t stop her. “Evan”‘s slow country approach utilizes bends not to initiate solos but to expand the wildlife of emotions. When loudness expands, it feels like caged horses have been freed simultaneously, taking the beautiful lands that were never theirs. But alongside the beauty must come the doom, which is what “Wreckage” and “Silent Moon” demonstrate with their unhinged instrumentation. Sadness and happiness are simple ideas that Sprengelmeyer wants to expand through majestic and tragic sounds.

Cult Following thus leads listeners into a story that begins with the beauty of joy and then the complexity of sadness. “Love as a Weapon” strikes listeners with an incredibly dance-worthy beat. “Remember your greatest gift is today,” the artist sings without the care of being commercial or not. Vocal textures commit to the swirl of fun, knowing fully well that later songs won’t be springy in their steps. “Every disaster has a beautiful start,” Sprengelmeyer sings in “The Kissing” with the swagger of a poetry slam participant. She, along with LCD Soundsystem’s James Murphy, light a spark to burn bridges, propelling the middle of the album.

“Someone Will Notice” also adds to the weight on Sprengelmeyer’s already tired shoulders. “Sometimes they are cruel / And by that I mean all the time,” she claims, almost in a way that wants to lull an infant to sleep. Its restrained production wants so much to be more loud and explosive than it is. Despite lines of retro keys not fitting, the more angelic notes provide what majesty is needed to go perfectly well with Sprengelmeyer’s lax tone. She would be a wonderful storyteller, a great speaker of fairytales and the like. And she knows that each tiny track (“Welcome to the Brain,” “Introduction to Evan,” and “Aftermath”) isn’t for the show of electronic and ambience. They are the bridge–the turning of the page.

Cult Following is like a great book in the way it’s emotionally bumpy. It blends a fairytale-like feeling with the troubles of reality. Each time Sprengelmeyer wants to catch the dreams she wants so badly to be real, she at least captures the sensations those images made her feel. In doing so, she might have created the blueprint to this great album. But dreams shouldn’t be logical and rigid like such prints. These imagined scenes are filled with sights and sounds that make no sense. Perhaps this album wants to reconcile all of those feelings.