Album Review

Shiny and the Spoon - Box of Bullets

Amy Sand
Released August 31, 2013
Formed in 2008, Shiny and the Spoon’s Amber Nash and Jordan Neff made a following with beautifully simple lyrics and soft falsettos. Gaining popularity through YouTube, they were the charming duo with the ukulele: a walking billboard that read “Get your soft Cincinnati folk here.”

With every record their sound has grown: from their stellar 2011 full-length debut Ferris Wheel to their current, more complex album Box of Bullets. S&TS has even doubled in size, adding two more official members: Pete Brown on upright bass, and Matt Frazer on the drums.

Old S&TS fans may be surprised – this isn’t the band you’ve come to love. Gone is the ukulele and its coy songstress. By adding more band members they've stripped away their quiet sound. So why let go of what you excel at? Has the band gotten better or just bigger?

Box of Bullets is a storm of sadness hidden in easy folk tunes. The catchy "Someday Love," with its strong harmonies, sets the tone of the album. The song questions the validity of an engagement “Guess you’ll have to do with me.” It’s a romance for the downtrodden.

On “Needle” we step out of the traffic jams of Cincy and onto a farm. It’s a life in which you can assume people pluck a healthy amount of chickens. (Farmers till the weeds away/ and shotguns keep the deer at bay/You work hard to keep me true.) Twang-y country love song? Check.

The title track "Box of Bullets" is a drawn-out metaphor for fear (Someday you’ll have to tell me who you keep those bullets for). This theme carries on throughout the rest of the album, mainly in a strange literal sense with talk of guns and bullets.

Even though the duo days of Shiny and the Spoon are over, the record frequently comes across as a twosome, with Nash and Neff sharing the spotlight. On “I Don’t Like It,” we’re treated to Neff’s smooth voice that sounds so effortless, we’re left wondering if he sings his way through life.

Box of Bullets is at its best when they’re repn’ the folk woman scorned. The bluesy standout “Pieces” hints at Nash’s birthright as a powerhouse vocalist. More wailn’ please.

Some songs come close. "Gram & Heloise" is beautiful right up until the chorus, where the harmonies get predictable and dotted with bland lyrics.

S&TS isn’t afraid of taking chances. The quiet “April Showers” is every 90’s girl’s anthem. When Nash whispers “Sing a little louder, dress a little darker,” you’re compelled to paint on a deep lip and kick ass.

Nash and Neff are continually compared to Cash and Carter. While their sound crosses more than ever on Box of Bullets, their biggest similarity is that of two people in love. It’s a compelling relationship that enhances the narrative and leaves us wondering what is real. Every duet is oozing with chemistry. It’s an intimate look at two people’s journey through the hellfires of love. It’s a brave way to make music and one that we hope never dies.

Box of Bullets could come off as a drizzle. With all the added noise, long-time fans might be left confused, wondering where their girl and her ukulele have gone. Is it a sophomore slump? No, it’s a slide into new territory.