Spare Parts for Broken Hearts – Songs that Stick to My Brain part 2

It’s time to return to my review of Spare Parts for Broken Hearts, the L.A.-based rock band whose eight singles have inhabited my ear space for the last couple of months.

When I listen to and review an album, the goal is to understand the music as a whole piece, rather than a critique.

I reviewed Spare Parts for Broken Hearts’ first for singles a few weeks ago. Today we’ll listen to the back four.

Previous post: Spare Parts for Broken Hearts – Songs that Stick to My Brain part 1

“You’re softer / When we collide

Gentle acoustic strums open “Pleasure Delay”, paired with lead singer Sarah Green’s off-kilter verses. The sound steadily builds with rhythm guitar and then drums.

Then the chorus hits with atmospheric sound–crashing cymbals, heavy chords, and eerie vocal tracks from Green behind the lyrics: “I could really show you something / I could be your one and only”

This song is a plea, perhaps for connection, but with a darker self-awareness, or maybe an admission: “But if you’re gonna die would you do it for me”.

“Take my hand and watch it burn”

“Say When” opens with a kind of slurring verse that seems to be directed at a former significant other. The music treads forward inexorably to a wailing chorus of old wounds: “Say when / Tell me you don’t want me then you hurt me just to stick around”.

In the second verse, the music quiets to a walking bass line and light drums, but Green’s vocals retain the anguish: “Take my hand and watch it burn / Oh I am shaking / From the love I can’t return”.

As in the first crop of songs from my previous post, “Say When” exemplifies Spare Parts for Broken Hearts’ ability to embody diverse and often conflicting emotional tones between songs, within songs, or even within a single verse.

“Build a bridge / Burn it down together”

“Mush” is the first song I ever heard by this group, and I was immediately struck by the weighty post-grunge overtones and Green’s ability to take her voice from warm and breezy to a full-throated gale and back in an instant.

I’m counting this entry as two songs, because the acoustic version of “Mush” is just as poignant as the full-band version. If someone had shown me the acoustic version first and told me it was the original, I would have believed them.

The authenticity of Spare Parts for Broken Hearts’ music is what resonates with me. It feels real, and even when the times of the music seem to contradict the anguished lyrics, that contradiction feels intentional.

It makes listening to these songs a layered experience, even after the tenth or twentieth time.

Steve D

Spare Parts for Broken Hearts: Songs that Stick to my Brain part 1

I’ve spent the last several days listening ad nauseum to eight songs by Spare Parts for Broken Hearts, an LA-based rock band about whom I’ve been aware for at least a year, but had neglected to spend any significant time with. I’ve been missing out.

Last week I finally bought all eight singles that are available for download from their website. From what I can tell, they have yet to put out an EP or LP, but I’m still pleased with their eight-song playlist on my phone. (Reading the about page on their site, they plan to release an LP this year!)

Today, I’m going to take the first four songs from my playlist and look at them a little more closely. I’ll do the other four songs I have in a follow-up. I’m just doing these in the order they appear on my phone. If you’ve never read one of my album reviews before, I like to review the musical and lyrical tones of the songs and try to interpret them together. So this is not a critique so much as an attempt at understanding this music.

“I don’t want to be the voice of your prophet, your profit”

“Dirty Milk” opens with a fast, distorted bass line, feedback chords, and ringing cymbals. Lead Singer Sarah Green’s voice is melodic with just the right bit of scratchiness: “I am anonymous / Are you just like me / I need a friend”. And the refrain: “I don’t wanna be the voice of your prophet / I just want to be alone”

The song repeats its only verse and refrain twice each, never relenting until an abrupt ending that briefly fades out with squealing distortion feedback. This pace is more what you would expect from a heavy post-grunge band, but it’s not what Spare Parts for Broken Hearts typically do.

“Tell me the story from a different angle”

“Big Win” is more of a slow burn to start that builds into a soaring chorus: “All that I want from you / You can’t take back”

Even as Green’s voice rattles and nearly drowns out the dirty guitar chords, she still finds the space to lower her refrain to a gentle, almost sweet level, only to come back to a final chorus with fury and anguish. Spare Parts, or perhaps Green herself, perfectly blend these opposite emotional levels in most of their songs.

This is easily my favorite song of the bunch.

“I could swim til the bitter end”

“Cold Wave” similarly transitions from floating verse to torrential chorus and back. These transitions are jarring in that the listener feels the sudden weight of Green’s pain. Her first belting cry of “With no air” is powerful on its own, but its true meaning is only revealed when she growls: “I’m holding my breath / With no air”.

These songs run 3-4 minutes each– an average length– but each one is so full of sound and feeling that they feel like frozen moments.

“Where you end I begin / Severed”

Most of SPFBH’s songs are laden with inner turmoil, but perhaps none feels as forceful as “Ever”. Green’s wail on the first word of the chorus is a challenge and a rebuke: “What you can’t give / You can’t take from anyone.”

Plucking strings and distortion-rended chords. Soft hi-hat and crashing cymbals. Airy verses and wailing choruses.

All of these elements mingle throughout most songs for Spare Parts for Broken Hearts, and they never feel out of place or forced.

That the band can embody these dichotomies so completely is a testament to their songwriting skill and their authenticity. Whatever inspired these songs, I believe it, and that’s part of what makes them unforgettable.

I’ll come back with the other four songs in a couple weeks.

How do you like Spare Parts for Broken Hearts so far?

Steve D