We Wanna Be Hyp-No-Tized, the third album Scott Kannberg has released under the name Spiral Stairs, opens with a big, bouncy beat that practically invites the appearance of a horn section. The surprise arrives when Spiral Stairs actually adds those horns, the first of many bold detours on We Wanna Be Hyp-No-Tized. Keep in mind those detours are contextual. An Ameri-Indie stalwart since he co-anchored Pavement, Spiral Stairs usually deals with the barbed, brittle sounds of classic underground rock, but he abandons that aesthetic here, trafficking in grand gestures and bold colors. Kannberg can still evoke memories of college rock, but it's the clean, polished crossover college rock of the dawn of the '90s. Despite this aesthetic, it's hard to call We Wanna Be Hyp-No-Tized nostalgic, not with the undercurrent of social commentary and the urgency to the production. It feels like the turmoil of the late 2010s has galvanized Spiral Stairs into making his most direct and stylistically adventurous (which is a quite different thing than experimental music) music yet. Perhaps Kannberg can be a little on the nose, writing verses about investigative journalist Seymour Hersh on "Swampland," but that only adds to the charm of the album: after years of championing obscurity, there's something bracing and endearing about hearing Spiral Stairs aim squarely for the gut.
We Wanna Be Hyp-No-Tized Review
by Stephen Thomas Erlewine