The only spiritualized album I had heard before listening to the brilliant new “Songs in A&E” was “Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space.” I must say, I enjoy this new album more than that classic. The songs are more structured and flow smoother. Jason Pierce wrote the majority of these songs while sequestered in the ER, referred to as the Accident & Emergency Ward in the UK (A&E), for double pneumonia. This minor setback resulted in a five year delay for a new album. The album sort of chronicles the bleakness of life whilst stuck in one place and mulls over the subjects of life, death, and how they interact with each other.
On “Songs in A&E,” each song is very layered and heavily orchestrated, creating a perfect atmosphere and mood for the record. Though mainly a blend of alternative and folk, variety is there, but along with it comes cohesiveness due to the overall despondent mood of the album. “Think I’ll drink myself into a coma,” Pierce sings on “Death take your fiddle,” a slow builder with hints of “paranoid android” sounding deep vocal choirs, supplemented with an overpowering wheezy and shivering breath that makes the song seem like a soundtrack to a film on Pierce’s life. “Gotta Fire” is a subdued hard rocker with flashy guitar solos and horns reminiscent of “cop shoot cop.” “Yeah Yeah” is a “Highway 61″esque Dylan punk-folk revival. “Don’t hold me close” showcases Pierce’s love ballad writing ability and “Sitting on Fire” is a lush string driven tune. The album’s highlight, however, comes in the upbeat second of the three song medley about fire, “Soul on Fire.” One of the few optimistic, although I think its about heroin, pop songs on the album, the song’s catchy chorus will stick with you for a while: “Baby/Set my soul on fire/I got two little arms so hold on tight/and I want to take it higher.” I would best describe spiritualized as a sort of combination of Eels and Radiohead. Pierce’s crackling, yet surprisingly listenable vocals, go perfect with the music he has created. There is not a weak song on the album, including the 6 “Harmony” songs, which are short instrumentals, effectively setting the mood for each of the record’s sections. A lot goes into a spiritualized song, both emotionally and instrumentally, and for all that Jason “J. Spaceman” Pierce went through whilst producing it, it shows.