By Matthew Martin
I remember the first time I heard Caroline Spence. She was opening for John Moreland at Jammin' Java in Vienna, VA. I was expecting to be blown away by Moreland, but was yet again extremely happy I got there for the opener. Caroline Spence opened and completely blew me away. I left feeling gut-punched, not only by Moreland, but by Spence. She sang incredible songs with a wonderful, strong voice.
On Spence's latest album, Mint Condition, she continues her strong streak of albums. There are songs for every mood and occasion, but one thing remains constant; Spence's perfect songwriting ability. The production on the album is also great. It allows Spence's voice and lyrics to be the star of the show. There isn't much flair in terms of added instruments or needless solos. Sure, they're there, but they add flavor rather than a distraction.
As for the songs themselves, I think these are some of Spence's greatest. She deals with trying to get out of town to turn your life around ("Angels or Los Angeles"). Or, she sings about the insecurity that comes with relationships and growing up ("Who Are You" and "Song About A City"). My favorite song on the album, "Sit Here and Love Me,” is at once crushing and beautiful. This perfect song about dealing with depression and the need to just have a loving ear and it caught my attention immediately; I continue to go back to it more and more. Sometimes the solution to any problem is to just love and be loved. It's beautiful and I hope if nothing else, you listen to this song intently.
Spence can also write a damn good, clever line with the best of em. On the great "Who's Gonna Make My Mistakes" Spence muses, "Talking to this man is like looking at an ashtray, something was there but there ain't much left..." Lines like that are strewn throughout the album here and there. You gotta pay attention and with Spence's voice, that isn't hard to do. She demands attention. She deserves your attention. Come for the voice, stay for the songwriting.
The album finishes with the title track, "Mint Condition." This song is a great representation of all that is Caroline Spence. At once beautiful, clever, and graceful, the song is a perfect way to end the album. Spence can write the hell out of a love song.
I think Spence is one of the songwriters we don't hear nearly enough about. She consistently puts out great albums and this album is no different. Go buy it. You won't be disappointed. Go see her when she comes near your town. She's worth every damn cent. I know I can't wait til she comes to D.C. so I can hear these brand new songs live.
Mint Condition is available Friday.