Steve Sperandeo’s greatest strength could be defined in his ability to unfold both human sensibilities and vulnerabilities, and this quality is what stands out in his full length debut album “Contagious Emotions”. This is not your average romp in the singer-songwriter landscape, though the typical themes of love, loss and desire certainly permeate the storytelling. What’s different here is the brutal honesty with which the stories are presented. The Canadian artist, based in Toronto, has a voice that is crisp and full of passion and his music carries a blend of traditional, organic Americana-styled instrumentation and arrangements, as well as pop flair.
Steve Sperandeo’s prose and perspective can at times be downright emotional, undeniable and rooted in a powerful truth about the way things are. How else would he come up with lines such as: “Your momma don’t love me, and you daddy’s a junkie. Your brother’s suicidal, and your sister quotes the bible,” on the opening track, “Junkie”. This underlying intensity never lets up for the duration of the record.
Steve paints vivid pictures with words, and the theme of undeclared love on the gently orchestrated “For Ann”, is presented with a brutally honest self-perspective, amidst the picked acoustic guitars. Certainly Steve has no trouble searching deep within himself as he presents suffering as a truth and fact of life. His mellifluous and quavering voice being a perfect ally.
“Love Me Crazy” lifts the pace a notch, as shimmering strummed guitars and a determined drum beat drive the rhythm of desire in Steve Sperandeo’s voice which sparkles with grit. “Forever” rides a slow rhythmic swing as the ache in Steve’s voice exclaims: “Love me forever, please love me till I die.” The poignant ebb and flow of the arrangement is nothing short of intoxicating. It is story full of meaningful sentiment and it commands the listener’s full attention.
“Nothing” is constructed on jazz-induced, slow-burning sonic architecture, showing off another eloquent facet of Steve Sperandeo’s superior songwriting. This template is turned upside down on “I’m Going Insane”, where Steve switches to the earthy sound of roots Americana – fiddle and all. The result, as can be expected, is stellar. In these kind of songs, authenticity is paramount and there’s no question that it comes from a place of experience.
“Tell Me Why” has a sweeping arrangement, dominated by swelling strings, heartfelt lyrics and soaring vocals. However, Steve is at his absolute best when he tones down the music and allows the never-ending depth of his Knopfler-like voice to resonate with raw emotion, as it does on the stunning “Love Me”. “Luvox” replicates the sonic brilliance of the previous track, except this time the nuancing and grit in Steve Sperandeo’s vocals reach an absolute apex.
Steve certainly left his best performances for the second half of the album, as each subsequent track brings many vocal and musical highlights. There is something that is hauntingly honest in Steve Sperandeo’s voice, and it surfaces powerfully again on “Alone In His Chair”, before he closes the album with the groovy mid-tempo jam “21 Grams”.
Overall “Contagious Emotions” is a pretty serious affair, but then again, so is love and life, and the experiences that Steve Sperandeo has lived thus far certainly sounds worth documenting, especially when the songs supporting them are this emotional and striking.