Steve Covault

Energizing, honest, lighthearted, and incredibly tight are a few of the words I’d use to describe Spud Davenport’s Songs For The Cynical; a rich, emotionally present release full of light in the face of tragedy.

The SoCal-based satirist, singer, and songwriter Spud Davenport is back with his second full-length release. A healthy meal of 14 songs of varying styles, directions, attitudes, and personalities, with a few things that tie them all together. Spud’s humorous lyricisms are refreshing, the singing is characterful, and the arrangements are inventive, and the fantastic production is always trying to utilize them as best as possible. The result is a truly captivating listen.

The “fun” album is a rare beast nowadays. While it exists, a lot of artists out there set out to make exactly that, a fun, lighthearted album, meant to spread joy and positivity, a very few of them reach the level of “fun” that this album provides. That is because Spud isn’t just out to create light, positive songs, he’s out to execute them like a professional, so they end up sounding tight, full of musicality and intention, packed with humor that goes beyond the usual witty lyrical remarks, and with a songwriting that’s inspired and outstanding on almost every song.

The starter, ‘Come Inside!’, has a solid riff and an inviting melody. Running a little over one minute, this nugget is just a teaser for what’s to come, literally asking us to come inside, and listen to what the album has to offer. The magic starts directly afterwards with Enjoy Every Sandwich. With a title like that, we get a preview of Spud’s style of lyrical satire. The grand-sounding, tear-jerking chorus, with that epic title sung over it is a moment of stark, relatable joy. Car Wreck is absolutely gorgeous. Singing about how a car wreck reminded him of all the avoidable pain his partner causes him on a daily basis, but it also made him think of how he should improve and work on himself. Comedic lyrics are beautifully laid on top of a haunting pop composition. Gentle, lilting, like clouds parting, the song opens up on the verse section and is a breath of fresh air. The colorful jazzy chords on the medley are remarkable in how memorable they sound. A haunting, funny tune, full of lush songwriting, and witty lyrics. I’m The Only One has a brilliant chorus, with blues harp and claps and the whole package. Lyrically, the song is sweet to an outstanding level, and not in the way I’ve come to expect from “sweet” songs. The lyrics of I’m The Only One easily stand out and make it a distinguished song for honest, real-life love.

Paper Maps has a unique sound with the gently stuttering piano/guitar riff and a chorus that sounds suspiciously similar to U2’s Moment of Surrender’s chorus. The songwriting is colorful and peppy and summons to mind Richard Hawley’s heartfelt, emotional chord progressions. Hot For Teacher is hilarious. What do you do after you come up with a captivating atmosphere based on grand piano, a rich choir, and a grandiose, dramatic composition full of melancholy and awe? If you’re Spud Davenport, you sing on top of it of the teacher you have a crush on, and how much you’re screwed up because of it. Pure gold. Roommates is sublime pop-punk. An intense character, incredible singing, and blazing riffs. If I Had The Time is a special one. This song has a dozen influences, and how they end up nicely smoothed out like they are, is a daunting thing to wrap your head around. The iconic a-weema-ways from The Lion Sleeps Tonight is only the beginning of it. A heavy-handed beat, modulated guitar tones, and sleazy riffs are all perfectly Queens of the Stone Age inspired. A sleeper masterpiece of composition and arrangement right here. Don’t Flip Your Lid is a delightful acoustic jingle with an awkward drumbeat and a hilarious, yet gorgeous trumpet. Let’s Lead Together is a haunting closer, with a serious undertone and a stunning feature from Mary Grasso. A chilling, fitting closer to this amazing album.

It’s no secret. I’m totally smitten with this album. Putting a happy face on sad times is a noble cause, and the execution is dear and beautiful. Spud is an extremely talented songwriter and lyricist and what he achieves with this album is way beyond what it sets out to achieve. Deserves every ounce of attention that it gets.