Amelia Curran’s Spectators sounds like an archetypal folk singer-songwriter album: G and C chords abound, picked delicately on an acoustic guitar underneath a veil of quiet musings and metaphorical lyricism. But in Curran’s case, this formula is no flaw. The East Coast troubadour isn’t simply another imitator—she’s an example of what others are trying to emulate.
The quality of Spectators, the follow-up to 2009’s Juno Award–winning Hunter, Hunter, is apparent right from opener “Years.” The simple but charming track is layered with just the right amount of percussion, organ, and electric guitar. This craftsmanship continues throughout the entire album, and Curran never overreaches with her arrangements. Whether it’s a string section, a flare of horns, or a subdued steel guitar, the subtle sonic additions always complement her smooth voice.
The album’s strengths are especially evident on a pair of tracks: the reserved, haunting “The Modern Man,” which is followed by the cheerfully upbeat “Blackbird on Fire.” Side by side, the two songs—one melancholy, the other poppy—showcase Curran’s impressive range as a songwriter. The only shame is that closer “Face on the News” ends so abruptly that you can’t quite pinpoint what it is about Curran’s honest offerings that separates her from the legions of acoustic guitar–wielding hopefuls with a sad story to tell.
Playlist picks “Years,” “The Modern Man,” “Blackbird on Fire,” “Face on the News”
Amelia Curran plays the Rivoli (334 Queen St. W.) on Nov. 8.