Those unfamiliar with Chrystia Cabral’s SPELLLING are being gifted the ideal entry point: The Bay Area art-pop pathfinder is breathing new life into her output to this point on her forthcoming fourth album, the self-produced SPELLLING & The Mystery School, coming Aug. 25 on Sacred Bones. Our latest preview of the career-spanning LP is “Hard to Please (Reprise),” a revitalized new version of the track that originally appeared on SPELLING’s 2019 album Mazy Fly.
The third single from SPELLLING & The Mystery School after the lead double drop of “Cherry” and “Under the Sun” — which reimagined songs from her 2017 debut Pantheon of Me and Mazy Fly, respectively — “Hard to Please (Reprise)” levels up in its newfound form. Gone are the analog synths and prominent wah guitar and bass of its funk-soul Mazy Fly iteration, replaced with sweeping strings, pearlescent piano and an added emphasis on Cabral’s longing vocal, with backing from Toya Willock and Dharma Moon-Hunter adding depth and dimension.
The reimagined track heightens the push and pull of agony and ecstasy in Cabral’s lyrics — “Take me with you to the sky / Or leave me here now, nevermind / To keep you happy, I keep fine / I fight so hard, I try too hard to / Please,” she croons, forced to constantly shift shapes in pursuit of a love forever at the edge of her reach. “I love to love, but my baby loves to fly,” Cabral chants in the refrain, eventually giving way to a keening violin solo backed by bright vibraphone. There’s beauty in her every lamentation, like she knows her efforts are worthwhile.
“With this album, I wanted to capture the ways that these songs have morphed,” Cabral said of SPELLLING & The Mystery School upon its announcement in July. “They’re like my children all grown up in a different stage of their lives, and I want to celebrate that. I’m proud to say it’s my favorite thing I have created so far, and working on it has really opened up new exciting visions for the future of the SPELLLING sound.”
In addition to prepping SPELLLING & The Mystery School, Cabral has been busy curating Oakland’s Through the Looking Glass Festival alongside Atlas Obscura and Sacred Bones. Set for Sept. 16 at historic amusement park Children’s Fairyland, the festival will feature sets from SPELLLING, Sun Ra Arkestra, Laraaji, SASAMI, Molly Lewis, Fat Tony (DJ set), Nailah Hunter, AroMa, Zachary James Watkins and Tarot by Botánica Cimarrón. Tickets are on sale now.
SPELLLING & The Mystery School is available for preorder now ahead of its Aug. 25 release.
You can hear new music from SPELLLING, and music from local, regional, national and international artists on our music discovery station The Independent 89.9 HD4. And you can follow our Fresh Squeeze playlist on Spotify to stream all the best new music, updated every month.