The Polyphonic Spree: Salvage Enterprise
The Polyphonic Spree emerged in 2000 as a vehicle for Tim DeLaughter’s wide-eyed orchestral-pop vision, with the players dressing in white stage robes and building enormous crescendos through woodwinds, strings, keyboards and choirs. But the core of what made the project so special—the imagination, the symphonic-level splendor—has probably also kept them in a cultural cage. For some indie-music fans, the group’s very name conjures a specific mood and era—most likely centered around the signature single “Light and Day,” a movie montage staple over the past 20 years. But there’s always been more to the Spree than hand-holding “Age of Aquarius” exuberance, evidenced by the depth and dynamics of Salvage Enterprise, their first album of new songs in a decade. Most of this music originated from the simplest possible place—DeLaughter alone with an acoustic guitar—and they maintain that foundation, even as the arrangements are gracefully stacked to infinity. Opener “Galloping Seas (Section 44)” kicks off with a quiet strum before piling on every overdub imaginable (pianos, electric guitars, vocal harmonies cascading from all directions), until the idea of a folk tune feels like a distant memory. DeLaughter doesn’t deviate much from that sonic and emotional arc, but it never feels like a formula because every note is earned. His voice, for one, remains agile and ageless—a tool of encouragement and wonder on closer “Morning Sun, I Built the Stairs (Section 52),” in which he coos about “smiling at the goddess of evil.” A classic sliver of sunshine through the storm.