When Indigo Sparke made her full-length recording debut, it was with the delicate and graceful echo, a sparsely arranged set of poignant indie folk songs produced by Big Thief's Adrianne Lenker and marked by a brittleness not dissimilar to the latter's own solo material. For the follow-up, Sparke instead enlisted the National's Aaron Dessner to produce. Taking that into account along with its capitalized title, the resulting sophomore album, Hysteria, takes a predictably more expansive as well as assertive approach to 14 songs still nonetheless rooted in a haunted, meditative folk-rock. The album begins with double-tracked vocals and an amplified guitar on "Blue." The only track here to cross the five-minute mark, it's a rambling, circular ode on loss that ends with a series of howls. Already heavier sounding that the debut, more fleshed-out arrangements soon arrive on "Pressure in My Chest," with its gentle layers of strummed guitar, harmonics, atmospheric keyboards, a simple rhythm section, and, at least on the chorus, harmonized and unison vocal tracks. Later, the animated folk of "Why Do You Lie?" creates a web of fingerstyle guitar and various keyboard timbres over its shuffling drums, and songs including "God Is a Woman's Name," the repetition-fueled "Infinity Honey," and feedback-kissed "Set Your Fire on Me" open up into outright indie rockers -- if restrained, thoughtful ones. Meanwhile, songs including the shimmery, countrified "Sad Is Love" and wailing "Hold On" occupy a space somewhere in between these selections and the album's more folk-oriented balladry, although Hysteria is backloaded with full-band tracks that almost seem to pick up baggage as the album progresses. One of those entries, "Burn," closes the record with the oft-repeated "Don't want to talk about it" to wrap up nearly an hour of trying to work through it. Although Sparke thrives in quieter surroundings, her voice is capable of commanding this more confrontational material, if made slightly less distinctive in the process.
by Marcy Donelson