Alain Johannes – Spark
When Alain Johannes' wife Natasha Shneider finally lost her battle with cancer in 2008 he set out to commemorate her with a collection of songs that he felt channelled the essence of his late partner and reflected her love of music as well as her reputedly terrific personality. He gradually amassed a collection of cigar-box guitars throughout the course of his travels with Them Crooked Vultures and Queens of the Stone Age which went on to form the bulk of the instrumentation on this understated but engaging album.
The melodies are typically reminiscent of QOTSA and Masters of Reality, though adapted to Johannes' more intricate style. Some of his guitar work is quite remarkable and his voice is consistently emotive without being overwrought. Though earlier numbers, such as the memorable Return To You do overshadow the second half of the record somewhat, Spark is still a solid collection and the personal significance of its genesis remains evident throughout. [Chris Cusack]