Considering that Rae Spoon‘s newest release, Love is a Hunter, is one certain to be in heavy discussion for next year’s Polaris Prize, I find it interesting that it’s completely at odds with the criteria to which the jury must adhere. With good reason, records are judged as a singularity and not a creative career arc, but without looking at Rae’s past, you can’t begin to understand how he’s progressed to create the musical bliss he’s settled into in today’s present.
That painful past, one which most would chose to leave behind, is vital to his transformation from confused country crooner to a man that has searched for acceptance and community, and finally found it both musical and as a person. As he opens the record with gentle picks or strips away the electro textures and replaces them with genuine emotion, Rae reveals glimpses of time – the narratives he used to tell with the support of only his guitar, the search that took him across our country and into new ones looking for inspiration and safety – and to view him as a snapshot instead of a slow moving film seems ingenious.
Admittedly, my experience and knowledge of the trans-gender community is limited to that new character on Degrassi, so I’ve never felt the fear and hatred that is touched upon in the gripping “Joan”, but even as the gripping song unfolds, Rae and Cliks‘ front man Lucas Silveira shift the mood to one of love. Rae refuses to focus on hardship, as the songs focus on finding love, lust or most importantly, the companionship and acceptance he’s found under the bright lights and faceless crowds on the gay disco scene.
What’s most amazing is that as he reveals intimate details of himself and a community most are unfamiliar with, Rae actually forces you to forget that you are as much an outsider to his community as he has been to so many. As he and Lucas trade vocals and soothing oohs and aahs and defy the hatred of the confused and walk home “hand in hand”, you can’t focus on anything but their love and strength. As he dances alone on the album opener “Death By Elektro”, you feel his loneliness and obsession with finding someone in a club, but just as the song starts to come down, you here another voice ring out like a shot, and at that moment you realize that Rae’s found someone that sees the world the same way. If that message doesn’t speak to every single person on this earth, I’m not sure what does. You realize that, as he mentions on the touching closer “Be the Light”, he’s “not as fucked up as my life.”
But above all, it’s the music that really stands out. On the anthem heavy superioryouareinferior, Rae was able to channel energy of heavy strums – he still cranks it up on the lust heavy “We Can’t Be Lovers With These Guns On” and the chugging guitar of “Monsters” keeps you moving – but with each subsequent release he’s moved towards more subtle sounds and gentle electronic textures that wash over his guitar and vocals. The infectious, dance floor ready “Dangerdangerdanger”, the blips and beeps of “You Can Dance” and the fantastic collaboration with Alexandre Decoupigny (“U-Bahn” – read more about it here) are impressive, but the way Rae splices currents into even the most stripped down songs (the end of “Lighthouse”) helps push these songs to new heights.
Everyone always talks about wanting and artist to progress and finding music with a message. On Love is a Hunter, Rae Spoon does both without sacrificing melody or emotion. If you liked any of Rae’s work, you will love Love is a Hunter, but I guess in terms of Polaris, even if you’ve never heard a single note from the man before, you might just have found one of your new favorite records. Thanks to the good folks at killbeat records and Rae, we have some extra special content for you. First, a track by track breakdown about the meaning of each song from Rae and an exclusive D/L of my favorite track on the record, “Death By Elektro.” Enjoy. Seriously.
Song by Song description from Rae Spoon:
“Death By Elektro” a song about electronic music poisoning.
“We Can’t Be Lovers” an angsty pick-up anthem.
“Love Is A Hunter” the title track about how love’s agenda diverts from reason’s.
“You Can Dance” exposes tabboo dance floor thoughts.
“Lighthouse,” wades through the various waves of intimacy and internal undress.
“You Like All the Parties” is about invisibility at a crowded party.
“Joan” is the ultimate love song to the trans community featuring a duet with ‘The Cliks’ front man Lucas Silveira.
“Danger Danger Danger” a glitter-splashed queer anthem.
“Monsters,” combats the internal demons that attempt to devour and question our survival, limitations and perseverance.
“U-Bahn,” explores the relationship we carry with our surroundings, how history’s narrative travels within us and intertwines with the present. The song came out of a collection of songs recorded with Berlin artist Alexandre Decoupigny called ‘Worauf Wartest Du?’ and features his textured electronic programming.
“Be the light be the light be the light” an acoustic epilogue about longing and power struggles.