Rae Spoon
Armour

by Jim Di Gioia

June 3, 2018

Rae Spoon’s Armour is unassailable, unflinching, and unafraid to make the personal public.

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On 2013’s autobiographical musical/memoir My Prairie Home, Rae Spoon took a long, hard look backward. The album traced their route from growing up queer in a Pentecostal family in the middle of Canada’s prairies — schooled in synths and dance music in the bars and clubs — to thickening their skin while living on the road playing the country bar and folk circuits, all the while becoming one of the finest singers Canada has ever turned out. My Prairie Home was as much about Spoon’s search for the authentic self, through all the identities they’ve had along life’s journey, as it was the experiences that shaped them.

My Prairie Home marked the end of one stage in Spoon’s career and wiped the slate clean, allowing 2016’s Armour the room to be the most Rae Spoon has ever sounded like Rae Spoon. Wearing all layers at once — acoustic instruments, electronic programming, poppy dance rhythms, hymn-like balladry, and that unmistakable voice — Spoon sounded settled in their own skin, allowing Armour‘s songs to soar with confidence and clarity. As if to further drive home the sense that Spoon had come into their own, Armour was also Spoon’s first release on COAX Records, the boutique label they founded in 2016 as a platform to address under-representation in the Canadian music industry.

Unassailable, unflinching, and unafraid to make the personal public, the ten songs on Armour are all about the audacity of hope. From the opening title track, when Spoon declares “There’s no amount of damage / that we can’t withstand. / We are not made to be broken / even by our own hands,” to album closer “Try Again at Everything” when they poignantly sing “I will wear your grandmother’s ring / and try again at everything. / I do not trust the ground, but I float above it when you’re around,” Armour resonates with both Spoon’s personal trials and with universal themes of perseverance and self-discovery. You’re never meant to know for certain whether the “we” they refer to is another person or another facet of Spoon themselves.

Armour is the ultimate “It Gets Better” story, one that never minimizes or trivializes the bullshit you have to go through to get to the place where you can look directly at the future without being blinded by your past. “I would not have believed / when I failed life and it failed me,” Spoon says on “Try Again at Everything”, “That I could find a family / when I thought it was so out of reach.”

The lesson Armour teaches is profound and at times difficult to accept: whatever doesn’t kill us will undoubtedly leave us wounded and changed in some way, but it’s in allowing our wounds to heal that we are able to move forward — as a person and an artist.

Jim Di Gioia

CoFounder at DOMINIONATED.ca
Jim founded the music blog Quick Before It Melts in 2006 and was its principal writer until 2016, when its decade-long run ended 10 years to the day it started. DOMINIONATED is its spiritual successor. Jim currently serves as a Polaris Music Prize jurist and Prism Prize jurist.

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