Scott Kannberg -- aka Spiral Stairs -- took an extensive break after the release of 2009's The Real Feel and the Pavement reunion that followed in 2010. He moved to Australia, settled down, and had a kid, eventually uprooting to Los Angeles when his in-laws moved to Mexico (his family would later join them). While in Los Angeles, Kannberg started writing music again, developing the compositions that began Doris & the Daggers. Recorded with a host of indie rock stars, including members of Broken Social Scene and the National, Doris & the Daggers is settled in an appealing way. Kannberg eases into a collection of classicist guitar pop that recalls vintage '80s college rock from New Zealand and Australia, but also bears some resemblance to the sharp, knowing pop of Kelley Stoltz, who functioned as a part-time collaborator on the record. Guitars may be at the center of Doris & the Daggers but Spiral Stairs doesn't walk a narrow path. He anchors "No Comparison" with disco rhythms, the opener "Dance (Cry Wolf)" feels like a vague tribute to either David Bowie or Echo & the Bunnymen, horns grace "The Unconditional," and the title track is a phased rush of noise that recalls Pavement pulling pranks. Nevertheless, the heart of the album is in those ringing riffs and winding guitar chords, songs that feel like middle-aged updates of "Date with Ikea" and "Passat Dream," and that's highly appealing. Kannberg seems comfortable in his skin, happy to reconnect with his roots but never desperately scrambling after the past, and that makes for a quite charming record.
AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine