Former frontman/songwriter of Bay Area based ramshackle indie soul folk outfit The Mumlers, Will Sprott goes out on his own to create another eclectically styled release with “Vortex Numbers.” Part surf, garage-y caveman stompers infused with reflective yet surreal fingerpicked somber ballads combined with Sprott’s soulful throwbacks, this record sprawls yet remains a cohesive voice. And what a voice. Will can belt with the best of them but usually chooses a subtle drawl full of cobwebbed wisdom and mysterious yearning. His vocal range can blend from a deep swampy hum to an airy falsetto with ease, accentuating the often otherworldliness of these songs within the record.
Many favorites include the 60’s beat-surf-shuffler “Psychic Lady”, the beautifully composed heartstopper “Girl In Houndstooth” and “Under My Eyes”, a pleasant finger-picker in the style of a Mississippi John Hurt blues number. Sprott’s musical accompaniment also has a lot of depth and color. The flute and violin on the cryptic “Crooked Melody” adds wonderful texture to this jagged haunting tune. The vibes on the Egyptian creepout slinker “Washed Clean” are an excellent example of his arrangement talents. He also uses harmony quite well with back-ups from Oakland’s group, Upside Drown, adding their angelic ghost choir vocals to many tracks, including the somber yet beautiful piano ballad “Middle Of The Air”. Another standout is “Little Bells” with its spectral oohs and aahs from the backup singers and its helicopter-like, swirling drum beat is mesmerizing.
Sprott is also a great lyricist, mixing humor and wistfulness simultaneously without being showy or maudlin. “A Dog Will Love You When No One Else Will” uses its canine metaphors in hilarious ways to bring a whimsy to an Otis Redding like soul banger that dares to be stuck in your head for hours after a listen. The album opener “Open Eyeball”, recorded with some of his Mumler pals and its lyrics filled with staples, sutures, buzzards and vultures is a perfect album opener and introduces the listener to Will’s weird and memorable universe. He has an undefinable sound that is both familiar and completely unfamiliar which is part of the appeal. Strange happenings here, slip into the vortex.