Recording information: Aaron's Garage and Quinn's Basement, NYC (2014/2015); Hotel de Ville, Montreal (2014/2015); Hotel2tango (2014/2015); Sonovox Studio (2014/2015); The Bridge Studio Mixart and Spinning Plates, Montreal (2014/2015).
Little Scream's long-awaited second album, Cult Following, opens with "Love as a Weapon," a bright and emphatic bit of dance-minded pop that suggests after five years away from the studio, the artist otherwise known as Laurel Sprengelmeyer is ready to have some fun and make some music. Like Little Scream's 2011 debut The Golden Record, Cult Following is impressively ambitious and covers a broad aural palette, from the smart, stylish pop of "Dark Dance" and the passionate indie rock of "Evan" to the moody atmospherics of "The Kissing" and the widescreen finale of "Silent Moon" and "Goodbye Every Body." While the album doesn't consistently get on the good foot after the first few tracks, there is a tone of playful liberation in this music even when it goes dramatic in the second half, and Little Scream wrangles the massive clouds of sound that make up these pieces with intelligence and authority. (She does get a valuable assist from co-producer Richard Reed Parry, who also shows off his multi-instrumental talents.) Sprengelmeyer gathered an impressive set of collaborators for this project, including Sufjan Stevens, Sharon Van Etten, and actual cult favorite Mary Margaret O'Hara, but this music has a strong and distinct personality of its own, and the graceful swing from the poppier first half to the more contemplative finale is a testament to Little Scream's imagination and musical intelligence. In the liner notes, Sprengelmeyer states that Cult Following was recorded "under duress," but the heart and soul in this music confirm that's some sort of joke; this is an album full of vivid imagination, and executed with the skills to make those ideas stick. This album deserves better than a cult following, and hopefully Little Scream will have more to offer in less than five years. ~ Mark Deming