California-based artist Tia Cabral is the individual behind the brilliant moniker Spellling, which aside from being a funny grammar joke, appropriately nods to the bewitching qualities of her music. Pantheon of Me, her first album, was justifiably one of the most buzzed-about self-released debuts of 2017, blurring lines between minimal synth pop, wispy freak-folk, and hazy soul. Follow-up Mazy Fly arrives on Sacred Bones, an established home for otherworldly pop and experimental sounds. While her first effort was a raw, sometimes skeletal collection that heavily utilized looping pedals, Mazy Fly is a much more developed studio creation, with more fleshed-out arrangements incorporating violin, saxophone, percussion, and other instruments. Cabral is able to push her gorgeous voice in different directions than before, and the songs have a more pop-influenced structure to them while still avoiding formula. Following the brief, crackly opening mantra "Red," which sounds like it's being played off slightly warped vinyl, "Haunted Water" is a stunning darkwave ballad filled with sultry vocals and slow, booming drum machines. Early single "Hard to Please" introduces a dance element to Spellling's sound, with starry synths and pulsating beats surrounding Cabral's enraptured vocals before collapsing after two minutes. While intriguing, the song is actually eclipsed by its reprise several songs later, which features live drums, a more relaxed tempo, and a more soulful vibe in general. The album's other big standout is "Under the Sun," a space-carnival disco track with a refreshing amount of hope for the future. Elsewhere, "Afterlife" and "Real Fun" are alien invocations filled with sci-fi synths, and "Secret Thread" is a magical, surrealist quasi-nursery rhyme featuring the memorable line "flirting with the sky at night." There are a few moments on the album where the drums sound a little cluttered or it isn't quite clear what direction a song is going in, although perhaps that's to be expected for music meant to be this dreamlike -- it's not always supposed to make perfectly logical sense. Regardless, the album is a delightful trip from an unmistakably original artist.
AllMusic Review by Paul Simpson