Casey Frensz, a multi-instrumentalist and music educator from Minneapolis, released his album Spiral in March 2017 on Bandcamp. This project could be considered a concept album. It tells a consequential tale of a life-changing relationship from the early stage of infatuation to Frensz’s feeling of heartbreak toward the end, and eventually his moving on and learning from the experience as a whole.
The project begins with a slow, monk-like love ballad “If” that starts the journey on a hazy note. Spiral immediately shifts tone on, “Love Is Forever,” which sounds like a really well-mastered, funk song from the ‘70s as Frensz asks the question, “Was there ever a world without you?” The track showcases Frensz’s more romantic and vulnerable side while also packing a ton of flavor that often pops up in his genre-fusing songwriting.
“The Truth” is a romantic folk take on his love for a girl. The singer sweetly sings about finding beauty and magic in the girl, and in turn, life. “Together” then follows, acting as another sunny day song that explains just how drawn the artist is to his lover. The happily strummed acoustic guitars and echoey church organs give the song its popping qualities, further driving-home the experience of being in a distractingly happy relationship.
Then, the album takes a turn. “Webs” follows an unconventional format with the intro and outro being upbeat, sandwiching a dreary heartbreak in between. The sudden shift in tone in the instrumentation signifies the quickly shifting emotion that the artist is feeling on the track. He promises to forget everything about his time with her; “I’ll forget your fingertips and I’ll forget the words and you said / And I’ll forget the little songs that sprang up in my head.”
There are some moments of really tight soloing work on this project. At the end of, “Webs” Frensz unleashes a speedy solo that brings feelings of confusion and worry to the mood of the story. In“Little Clay Pots” he talks about living alone without the girl he loves over dreary acoustics, illustrating the heavy scene of seeing her pictures on the walls next to his poetry.
Assuming he does in real life as well, the album thankfully recovers from the unforeseen heartbreak. “Spiral” the track that shares the same name as the album fulfills its role of summing up what the artist is ultimately trying to say; that love is a spiral. You end exactly where you begin with the other person. The relationship rises and brings along meaningful experiences, only to end at square one. He cleverly layers the words “start” and “end” in the chorus when he says, “Suppose it’s time for a spiral to end/start,” enforcing his idea that every relationship is just a spiral.
“Grow,” is a hippie anthem about progressing with time and appreciating every life journey for what it is. His vocal harmonizing is very prevalent on this track, as he gives one of his most pleasing singing performances here. The song is laid-back and mature, reinforcing the faith in love that I had lost over the course of the album and being effective in ending the project on a happy note.
This album is about relationships recurring in spirals and choosing to grow from them, rather than allowing them to tear your life apart. Each song assumes its own character; the funkier tunes contain various horns and trumpets while the mellower, hippie folk ballads throw occasionally depressing, yet honest and gratifying lyricism for the listener to relate to. There isn’t a track on this album that is forgettable, nor are there moments where I felt that Frensz was sulking too much. The artist excellently balances varying emotions to compose a project that is compelling and easy to relate with, for we’ve all been through tough spirals of our own.
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