“Cross your heart and remember me, the good father and the bad seed,” London-based songstress Al Spx sings on the opening track of her debut, I Predict A Graceful Expulsion. A sea away from her Toronto, Canada, home, it’s difficult to believe that Spx — who refuses to use her real name out of respect for her God-fearing, disapproving family — is writing from a place of anything less than gut-wrenching sincerity.
Slung somewhere between Bill Callahan’s folk nihilism and Flannery O’Connor’s down and dirty spirituality, I Predict A Graceful Expulsion is an extended dalliance with darkness. As though weaving a gospel for the unbelieving, Spx fills her “doom soul” with tales of fractured families, weary travels, and what feels like emotional weight of the world. There’s some sparse, sophisticated, instrumentation — a single piano here, a strummed guitar there, a trumpeting horn from somewhere in the distance — but it all comes back to the barebones elegance of her emotive rasp. When Spx repeatedly sings, “I am a goddamn believer” over the chorus of “Blank Maps,” her voice growing to an unhinged howl, oh, how she’ll make you believe.