Al Spx, a 24 year old singer songwriter from Etobicoke, Ontario has a voice that seems to channel a legion of ancestors, all with trials and tribulations, all with full lives, all who have grown within her, withered, bruised and wise. As Cold Specks and on her debut Album "I Predict a Graceful Expulsion" she sits in the middle of her stirring, beautifully rendered songs that in the very least are catchy soulful songs and, at best, are religious experiences. Her reputation as a captivating presence has preceded her. A lot has been written about her musical style described as doom soul. Her songs blend gospel, blues and soul stitched together with indie rock thread. One wonders how someone so young can so fully embody the weight of the songs she writes but she does. Besides her prowess as a songwriter, her voice has this cool character that is hard to describe. It has a full bodied tone with a gritty texture. Her vocals are also imbued with (for lack of a better term) this noble essence. She is somehow able to couch each syllable in a soothing motherly embrace. "The Mark" and "Heavy Hands" (with it's wonderfully askew horn bed) are heavily bathed in the blues and gospel as is "Winter Solstice" that has a drum beat that could easily be a chorale of singers foot stomping on the wooden floor of a church as it builds to it's uplifting conclusion. "Elephant Head" (the song which the title of the album derives from) could be both a eulogy or confessional -"1000 still born thoughts to cradle and hold with my mother's hands" and "Blank Maps" builds like a life saving choir " I am, I am... a Goddamn believer".
There are other musical emotions to swim in as well- "When The City Lights Dim" dances smartly with a 60's soulful swampy blues feel. It is clearly the most mainstream sounding song on the album with sea of horns accompanying Al's sultry voice. A wonderful surprise is "Hector" with a percolating beat and picking guitars flirting with dissonance. As the piano down beat reverberates around a solid drum beat it feels very much like it could exist as a twin sister to some Radiohead song on their "Rainbows" album. "Send Your Youth" feels somber, lovely and spiritual at the same time. Starting off with a sparse acoustic piano and Al's wonderful voice, it swells with low toned backing vocals and instrumentation. It ends with Al's voice alone and stark. At this point it becomes almost timeless, it could be a 160 years old African American Spiritual. The last track on the album, "Lay Me Down" is a beautifully moving hymn with a mournful acoustic guitar and Al's ethereal voice. It can, quite simply, bring you to tears- "with my last breath my soul will slip, with my last breath my soul will slip....where the ground is what this blood knows... we simply greet it and rest"-