A decade after Pavement's last album -- and directly in the wake of their announced 2010 reunion -- Scott Kannberg finally releases his first album under his Spiral Stairs' moniker with Real Feel. Not too far removed from either Preston School of Industry album, Real Feel slightly emphasizes a California pop vibe, using these vague Beach Boys aspirations and Kannberg's patented, rippling indie pop as punctuation to a bunch of pleasantly lazy, ambling country-rock. Spiral Stairs remains a pleasing, if not especially exciting, singer/songwriter and Real Feel showcases both of these sides effectively, rambling on nicely as it strolls through its songs, but never quite getting into any interesting territory.
It's not mandatory for great bands to balance a dominant vocal personality with a foil, but it makes sense that it happens so often. A good No. 2 doesn't need to be less interesting than the star-- Flavor Flav is surely a more magnetic figure than Chuck D, for example-- but at best, they establish a necessary contrast that casts the lead in sharper relief.
Timing can be a real bitch sometimes. You spend four years crafting your first ‘proper’ solo record, pour your heart and soul into, only for your seminal former indie band’s prima donna lead singer to decide it’s the right time to get the old gang back together, consequently blowing your big news clean out the water. Can’t a guy catch a break? Sure, there’s the possibility that the big news might grant your record a few more column inches, but it’d be nice to be appreciated on the grounds of your own work and not on former glories.
A rich heritage is not something to be totally discounted when considering the first solo outing of someone so closely associated with a notable musical group from the past. Indeed, in this case, it’s become inextricable from him. Scott Kannberg’s (AKA Spiral Stairs) role in Pavement will likely shape the opinion of most who hear this debut. So caution is required when assessing it.
It’s no secret that some of the best songs are written after some sort of gut-wrenching, heart-breaking relationship fiasco and it’s no different with former frontman of Preston School Of Industry and founding member of Pavement, Scott Kannberg, a.k.a. Spiral Stairs. After a split from his wife and five years of “dark times”, Spiral Stairs has made peace with his demons and assembled an album of emotionally personal music that can be heard in the heartfelt tunes on The Real Feel.