Thus far in her musical career singer-songwriter Anna Spackman seems to be on the right path towards commercial stardom. Her acoustic melodies and soft and precise vocals seem destined to find a home in the hearts of millions. Her lyrics and sweet vocal harmonies speak out to a mass audience of fans, albeit young women, who have ever found themselves at that familiar crossroads of love and life when one is reflecting on the path taken that ended in bitter heartbreak. Spackman is not one to look back on these times with bitterness though, instead she chooses to reflect on those times, singing them out and wondering how she could have done things differently and what the outcomes of these different turns may have led to.
This bittersweet outlook on life may have come from her humble upbringing in a small Pennsylvania town. It was here that she began to perform at open mics at the tender age of seventeen. A move across the country to the singer-songwriter capital of the world, Portland Oregon, likely helped Spackman to hone her songwriting skills. These skills are noticeably sharp on her third solo record House on the Sea. There are echoes of the Portland music scene on House on the Sea, however Spackman recorded the double LP with her brother Donnie when she returned back to the east coast.
House on the Sea is sixteen acoustic guitar driven songs long, each containing Spackman’s signature light and airy vocals. The songs unfold like a flower in time-lapse photography, telling its tale with just the right amount of metaphor. But Spackman’s lyrics oftentimes possess that vagueness which is a commonplace problem amongst the bourgeoning singer-songwriters who often dance around the point instead of telling the story directly. This is precisely what marks the novice as the novice and what hinders House on the Sea from being anything more than a novice album.
Though that is not to say that there are not any gems embedded in House on the Sea for there are. What I longed to hear more of didn’t come until late in the album beginning with the song “Sky.” Here Spackman reveals something personal to the listener in a way that the previous songs hadn’t. “Sky” marks the descent from the rubber stamp coffee house stage performer. This feeling continues on into the beautiful “How to Run” and runs throughout the remainder of House on the Sea.
House on the Sea is a late bloomer of an album with its most brilliant tracks being saved for the latter half of the record. They are worth skipping forward for. But moreover, they represent what in my estimation will be a bright future for Anna Spackman.
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