Spleen is the second part of an album trilogy released by Indiana-based artist Irene Wilde. The trilogy, which she dubs the Blackest Bile, consists of Melancholia, Spleen and Pyrrhicae with Spleen relating the “story of her suicide attempt and resulting hospital in-patient stay.” Listener beware--this is not a light, Danielle Steele beach read of an album. It’s raw, even minimalistic in parts and leaves you a little rougher.
With Spleen, Wilde aims to “lead the listener, passenger-seat style, through the reality of bipolar episodes,” or, put another way, she wants to “sublimate the pain” into song. She’s chosen a style that she characterizes as “experimental avant-garde soul-pop music.” Think Joss Stone, or maybe Billie Eilish.
The soundscape is fairly consistent throughout Spleen. Songs tend to be keyboard (or piano)-driven, atmospheric, taken at slower tempos and in minor keys. Drum tracks use big booming club-kick sounds with hi-hats and other tinkly sounds to move things along. Vocals are layered and kept fairly low in level.
The tracks are meant to display raw emotion, and confusion, and they do; lyrics are often hard to discern. The words pick up in intensity and whip around in the mix as we experience a bipolar episode with her. She takes us all the way in and through, and leaves us on an optimistic note with “Baby, Please.”
A couple of technical issues took away from the experience, though. “Heartbeat” is unfortunately undone by its mix and mastering. The percussion overwhelms, even distorts, the track, distracting from her vocals and lyrics. “Chicagoland” has a similar issue, so perhaps this is the desired effect.
That said, Spleen succeeds in packing an emotional wallop. Listeners may not understand what Wilde goes through, but she’s opened a window where we can begin to find empathy. As she tells us, she believes that bipolar disorder is misrepresented in society, and she wants to show that it doesn’t define her; rather, she is defined by what she “make[s], create[s] and fight[s] for.” Wilde makes us feel, so if you’re ready for it, give Spleen a spin.
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