An Enjoyable Listen Throughout
Scott Kannberg, aka Spiral Stairs, first released a solo album in 2009 called The Real Feel. Eight years later, the ex-Pavement guitarist is back with Doris and the Daggers, which consists of ten enjoyable indie-rock tracks.
Since Kannberg is a guitarist first and foremost, as expected, guitars dominate the album. Throughout the album’s ten songs, they are used with every possible effect, from reverberated melodies to chunky power chords to acoustic sections. The instrumentation accompanying Kannberg is straightforward, with mostly just bass and drums behind his reverb-drenched baritone vocals. Various different instruments pop up occasionally, but they are merely additions to the songs rather than consistent occurrences.
While the overall sound of the album is somewhat homogenous, there are enough subtle differences for a wide range of fans to each find something to enjoy. “Dundee Man” and “No Comparison” are catchy rockers, while the poppy “AWM” mixes a lovely acoustic melody and string arrangement. Synths and horns add a whimsical twist to “Trams (Stole My Love)” and “The Unconditional,” even though the former is relatively serious in concept.
The biggest drawback of the album is its lack of variety. Every song is pretty much the exact same tempo and every song fits the category of “good but not great.” In other words, there are no real standouts. Kannberg’s lyrics explore many different emotions from fun to mournful, but the music doesn’t really reflect that. The most massive misstep is the closer and title track, which literally is just Kannberg yelling out “Doris! And The Daggers!” a few times before the last 30 seconds, which comprise of a random poem about a boy with no arms and a boat builder, all set over piano chords. This leaves the listener on a confused note, despite the enjoyment of the first nine songs.
Overall, though, the good far outweighs the bad, and Doris and the Daggers is a fun listen from front to back, reminiscent of the mid ‘90s alternative rock performed by bands such as, well, Pavement. Spiral Stairs has proven once again that he is an accomplished solo songwriter with a lot of creativity to offer, and while sometimes that creativity can seem repetitive, it’s still a sound that only Spiral Stairs could create.