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Little Scream Casts A Dreamy Spell With 'Cult Following'

TERRY GROSS, HOST:

This is FRESH AIR. Our rock critic Ken Tucker has the review of the new album called "Cult Following." It's the second album by the American-born, Canadian-based musician Laurel Sprengelmeyer who performs under the name Little Scream. She sings and plays guitar and keyboards. The album was produced by Richard Reed Parry of the band Arcade Fire.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "DARK DANCE")

LITTLE SCREAM: (Singing) Dark, dark dance in the void as you're walking. I can feel you there in my soul confides me like an angel. Don't tell me you're a stranger. Seven out of seven, we own the night. Dancing here without you just doesn't seem right. But does it matter? No, it doesn't matter. If you see me dancing...

KEN TUCKER, BYLINE: Laurel Sprengelmeyer performs under the name Little Scream, and there is indeed little screaming, none that I can recall, on her new album "Cult Following." The music she's written casts a dreamy spell. She tends to sing in a confiding voice, as she did on the song that opened this review. Now listen to the beginning of "The Kissing," the way it moves, not from verse to chorus, but from verse to very different verse, shifting the tempo, switching the emphasis from guitar to keyboards and back again, turning it all into a braid of melodies.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "THE KISSING")

LITTLE SCREAM: (Singing) Every disaster has a beautiful start. That night I left my shoes out in the rain. Now I would rather stop time. Stop lying. Stop denying that I'll come home to you again. Well, I said what I felt, and I just came off like a jerk. Even though I never thought it would be me to leave someone out there in the lurch. So I called...

TUCKER: Operating primarily out of Montreal, Little Scream has made two albums with the collaboration of Richard Reed Parry of the Montreal band Arcade Fire as producer. The first, 2011's "The Golden Record," was mostly a spare, stark album that captured something of what it must've been like to see Little Scream perform live during that period, which was often solo on guitar and piano with a microphone at her feet, which provided the percussion. The new album is a much more heavily produced affair with occasional forays into pop music as can be heard here on a song that sounds, to me, influenced by Prince, a tune called "Love As A Weapon."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "LOVE AS A WEAPON")

LITTLE SCREAM: (Singing) I was putting on my red coat when I saw myself again. I was sick of how my heart felt when you found my heart again. When your life's not a shelter and you get caught in the rain, you go looking for an effort, make you feel like a boy again. Using love as a weapon, let's sharpen up your aim. You started out as an arrow but it shouldn't come back again. You said you know what you're doing, but you don't really have a plan. And now you're waiting on your (unintelligible)...

TUCKER: In addition to playing alongside a real rhythm section and the occasional saxophone, Little Scream also adds familiar voices other than her own to the mix, such as Sharon Van Etten, TV on the Radio's Kyp Malone and, on this particular cut, "Wishing Well," with Mary Margaret O'Hara.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "WISHING WELL")

LITTLE SCREAM: (Singing) Put your sequins on tonight. You're just trying to shine through. You only made it by (unintelligible) and in some ways you won it through. It's not worth all that much, and it don't matter at all. Saturday night here alone...

TUCKER: Laurel Sprengelmeyer has opened up the possibility that she intends the album titled "Cult Following" to have more than one meaning, not just a small devoted fan base, but perhaps a reference to having been raised for part of her youth as a Jehovah's Witness, which she has referred to in an interview as a kind of Christian religious cult. References to prayer, devotion, heaven, even the devil or Satan pop up here and there suggesting Little Scream's fascination with faith, and its opposite still exerts a pull for her.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "EVAN")

LITTLE SCREAM: (Singing) Love's shy. The devil smiles. Come to see me again. He said, look, child, steady while I take you in with my arms. Well, you read my little mind, and he replied you're as vengeful as pretty. Now I beg you little heaven from the skies. I'm sure it is really. I said, hello, Evan. I'll be here in your prayers. I said, hello...

TUCKER: Little Scream has a knack for striking images. I like her reference to a star in the sky as reminding her of a light on in an empty car. And her metaphor for a premonition is to say that she woke last night with a spark in my bones. She's a good writer. She's also a visual artist, a painter. Her music rather than illustrating what we might assume to be biographical details, summons up an array of landscapes roiled by clouds of emotion, storms of fury or the blue sky allure of tranquility. The music that results is a very testament to desire and endurance.

GROSS: Ken Tucker is critic at large at Yahoo TV. He reviewed Little Scream's new album called "Cult Following." Tomorrow on FRESH AIR...

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "MARON")

MARC MARON: (As Marc Maron) I've got nothing. I'm a 52 year-old man, and I've got nothing - no wife, no kids. I had my second chance. I had it.

GROSS: In the first episode of the new season of Mark Maron's IFC series "Maron," Maron's character has become addicted to the oxy that he was taking for back pain. He's squandered his success, and he's living in a storage locker until an intervention gets him into rehab. I'll talk with Maron about the new season, addiction, and his 16 years of sobriety. I hope you'll join us. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.