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Shelf Life - "Spirit Bear (Deluxe Edition)" | Album Review


by Alex Azuelos

Spirit Bear Deluxe, Shelf Life’s first release of the year, comes to us as a remixed and remastered version of one of their earlier records. Shelf Life is the project of prolific Philadelphia-based artist Scotty Leitch, the former drummer of Alex G. In 2017 alone, Leitch released seven full length albums under Shelf Life ranging from complete lo-fi indie rock records such as Christian Coated Ethical Arena, Bark, and Yarn to collections of what seem like demos such as Bloody and Nu Testament. Shelf Life’s remastered release of his 2016 record Spirit Bear combines these two styles with the addition of seven previously unreleased demos following his original, polished eleven track album.

The record opens with a slow and somber track called “Kissing the Moss.” The droning distortion on his guitar paired with Scotty’s slow, dejected lyrics begin the record on a sour note. The mood picks up with tracks like “Eating the Rotten Fruit,” one of the more upbeat songs of the collection, and “Ready Freddy?” which brings a driving electric guitar together with darker lyrics describing, and critical of, prescription drugs. The record reaches its peak in the middle with its sixth, seventh, and eighth tracks, the first of which, the title track of the record, being one of the highlights of the album. A relatively short song, Leitch uses an acoustic guitar with a simple, steady drum beat to accompany his ostensibly straightforward lyrics. However, the humming synthesizer along with backing vocals from Aeon Ortiz (who also lends her voice to “Speed Trap” and “Speak Up”) create a beautiful, airy tone. Leitch quickly moves away from this with the aptly named “Spirit Breaker,” a track with harsh sounding backing guitars and an unwavering baseline. The climax of the album for me comes from the eighth track, “Speak Up,” where Leitch delivers a powerfully ominous song that evokes notions of voice and agency.

Finishing the album with “Khloes Baptism,” one of the most dynamic songs of the record, Leitch creates a record that feels complete and balanced, with the addition of a few noteworthy demos and B-sides to close it out. If you haven’t checked out Shelf Life’s collection on Bandcamp, I’d highly recommend doing so. In the company of artists such as Car Seat Headrest and Alex G, his discography of self-recorded masterpieces is pretty extensive and style varies from album to album. After a year of seven great records, one can only wonder what Shelf Life will bring to us in 2018.