Recording information: Decibelle, San Francisco, CA.
After releasing an album in 2011, Bad Penny, on which he played most of the instruments, Spectrals frontman Louis Jones changes things up a bit on the follow-up, 2013's Sob Story. The Richard Formby-produced debut fell just short of success thanks to some overly clean production and songs that weren't quite there in the hooks department. This time out, Jones adds a few extra musicians, including his brother William on drums again, installs Chet "JR" White (formerly of Girls) in the producer's chair, and gives his sophisticated guitar pop a more lived-in and scruffy sound. It's just the thing Jones needed to make the songs come to life. Last time out, the slick surfaces and studied melodies let the tunes slip right past; this time they are more likely to stick. The thumping "Let Me Cave In" starts things off swimmingly, with Jones' slurred vocals bolstered by some strong drumming and muscular guitar. The rest of the album is made up of songs that have snappy hooks and come across as the kind of songs one might find buried on an XTC album ("A Heartbeat Behind"), on a power pop compilation (the very peppy "Gentle"), or on a Let's Active B-side ("Milky Way"). Songs that are a little complicated and fussy, but full of heart and spunk. There are a couple outliers that show how Jones' songwriting has grown, like the chugging rocker "Keep Your Magic Out of My House" and the swaggering jangler "Karaoke," which sounds almost exactly like a lost Trash Can Sinatras classic. Overall, Sob Story is finely played and sung modern guitar pop that will make fans of Prefab Sprout, Orange Juice, and all the bands who have stolen from them very happy and satisfied indeed. ~ Tim Sendra
One-man band Louis Jones recorded slightly skewed, reverb-heavy amalgamations of `60s doo wop, Brill Building pop, and bashful garage rock -- often with dazed surf guitar accents -- as Spectrals. The 7" single "Leave Me Be" was released in 2009 on Captured Tracks. Early the following year, he issued split singles with Fair Ohs (on Tough Love) and Mazes (on Love Is Disgusting), both of which featured two of his songs. Later in the year, Jones linked with Slumberland, who issued "7th Date," a colored 7" single, that June. Though he recorded almost everything by himself, with help from his younger brother on drums, he put together a live band and toured with Girls. ~ Andy Kellman
CMJ - "On SOB STORY, Jones seems to have almost perfectly pinpointed the sound his voice is made for, and stretched it out a bit. It's doo-wop like American Bandstand, but grimy."
Paste (magazine) - "[Spectrals] shed the slings and arrows siblinghood might present and focus on crafting some of the most heartfelt melodic pop since Big Star on their new LP, SOB STORY."