Indigo Sparke

REVIEW: Indigo Sparke “Hysteria”


Indigo Sparke makes no secret of the personal traumas that led to the songs on her latest album. Abuse, relationship turmoil, drug use and mental health crises all inform Hysteria, which is a stark departure from the dreamy folk of her last record, the Adrianne Lenker-produced Echo. Her sophomore effort is constantly pushing forward as the Australian singer-songwriter strives to find what lies past the wreckage of her recent past.

Hysteria was already in process when Echo was released, the songs written between quarantine in Australia and a return to New York. Sparke linked up with producer (and founding member of The National) Aaron Dessner, who went to work on fleshing out her demos. The album starts Sparke’s story at the beginning – “Blue,” pushed forward by an insistent rhythm guitar line, recalls a tough childhood – “Took out the wooden spoon/Hit us real hard/Go to your room and don’t you dare cry.” The title track rides on an acoustic bed while letting Sparke’s voice shine in a song about the downside of unbounded longing – “Hysteria in the weightless crush/Wanna hold you so much.”

Even without overwhelming instrumentation (guitars, drums, bass and occasional keys form a solid base without drowning the songs), several of the tracks on Hysteria slowly ratchet up the intensity. The aptly named “Pressure in My Chest” subtly ups the ante while also balancing itself with a melancholy, Cure-ish guitar line as Sparke doubles down on Rust Cohle’s pessimistic assessment of existence – “Time is a circle/And time is a cage” – while reciting a rather bleak travelog – “I’ve made it to the wasteland/Of my forgotten screams.” Even in that void, though, Sparke finds ways to fill the emptiness. “Real” is a slowly building wave of a song that finds comfort in the margins – “Fill in the blanks with your body/I wanna breathe/Don’t wanna leave.” And “Set Your Fire on Me,” one of the “bigger” sounding songs on Hysteria, finds Sparke looking for a reason to break free – “I am open now/Waiting patiently/For you to pull me in/Set your fire on me.” Sparke goes from slow burn to full-on flames, ready to torch the worst of her past and make room for new life to grow.

Song I Can’t Wait to Hear Live: “Real” – on a record full of intense, slow builds (maybe my favorite type of song to hear live), this is the most subtly dramatic of the bunch.

Hysteria was produced by Aaron Dessner, engineered and mixed by Bella Blasko and mastered by Heba Kadry. All songs were written by Indigo Sparke, with co-writing credits going to Dessner and Plutarchos Sotiropoulos. Additional musicians on the album include Dessner (acoustic guitar, electric guitar, bass, keyboards, synths, piano, shaker, synth bass, tambourine, drum programming), Matt Barrick (drums, shaker, cymbals), Shahzad Ismaily (synths, electric guitar, 12-string guitar, percussion, synth bass, piano)

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