On Tour: Indigo Sparke w/ The National | 09.17.22, Saint Louis Music Park

Photo of Indigo Sparke by Angela Ricciardi

The National w/ Indigo Sparke | 8:00pm | Saint Louis Music Park, 750 Casino Center Dr., Maryland Heights, MO | All ages | Tickets from $39.50

After the tease of “fake fall” earlier this week, summer-like temperatures are once again in the forecast for St. Louis this weekend. Fortunately for anyone planning to attend The National’s stop at the breezy confines of Saint Louis Music Park this Saturday, opener Indigo Sparke’s exquisite new songs are ready to supply appropriately autumnal vibes.

Sparke’s new album—Hysteria, her second, due October 7 from Sacred Bones—was birthed in the early days of the pandemic. Sparke started her 2020 stuck in her native Australia awaiting the release of her first album (Echo, co-produced by her then-partner, Big Thief’s Adrianne Lenker, and released that February) and a visa renewal that would allow her to return to her new adoptive home of New York. When the world shut down, Sparke found herself in what she describes as “in some sort of strange altered state of reality, deep in a grief wave and a relationship death.” “I was moving through huge waves of grief and trying to reconcile what was going on, internally and externally,” she continues. “The grief opened a doorway to the past I thought I had made peace with. But there were days where I just couldn’t get off the floor. It felt like everything was falling through this hole in my chest. It felt stark and nauseating to feel such immense groundlessness whilst also looking at all the different versions of myself I had been.” The introspection led to a set of fourteen songs that Sparke finalized upon her return to New York the following spring. She recorded the resulting album with producer (and The National guitarist) Aaron Dessner, fresh off his Grammy wins for producing and co-writing Taylor Swift’s Folklore.

Given the emotional trauma that birthed it, it’s no surprise that Hysteria is an intimate album. But whereas the sparse Echo mostly captured that intimacy by stripping the songs down to their bare essentials of voice and guitar, Dessner’s production on Hysteria is lush but spacious, with the focus always on Sparke’s beautiful, ethereal voice. And what a voice it is, powerful but gentle, lilting in your ear like a whisper that drowns out the cacophony of the world around you. Filling out the sound behind Sparke’s own strummed guitar is backing from Dessner, drummer Matt Barrick (The Walkmen, Muzz, and, most appropriately for this project, Fleet Foxes), and multi-instrumentalist Shahzad Ismaily (whose lengthy résumé includes collaborations as disparate as Laurie Anderson and Lou Reed, Tom Waits, John Zorn, Jolie Holland, and Bonnie “Prince” Billy), which gives Sparke’s compositions the propulsive, pulsating warmth of the best National songs.

Yet Sparke is a very different songwriter than the National, with a folkier side that at times conjures Dar Williams or early Sarah McLachlan. (Dessner’s accompaniment at times recalls how Pierre Marchand excellently accented McLachlan on her all-time classic Fumbling Towards Ecstasy.) Sparke’s songs use slow tempos yet never drag, her lyrics cryptic yet pregnant with personal meaning and universal emotion. Her songs eschew easy pop hooks yet still stick with you thanks to gradual builds that peak with a lyrical phrase repeated like a mantra, as exemplified on the excellent single “Pressure in My Chest.” It all adds up to an album worth spinning when it arrives this October, and a performance most definitely worth arriving early for this Saturday. | Jason Green

Photo of Indigo Sparke by Angela Ricciardi

Indigo Sparke tour dates 

9.16 – Milwaukee, WI @ Riverside Theater *

9.17 – St Louis, MO @ St Lous Music Park *

9.18 – Indianapolis, IN @ TCU Amphitheater *

9.19 – Pittsburgh, PA @ Heinz Hall *

9.22 – Boston, MA @ Roadrunner *

9.23 – Port Chester, NY @ Capitol Theater *

9.24 – Harrisburg, PA @ Riverfront Park *

11.29 – Washington, DC @ Songbyrd ^

11.30 – Philadelphia, PA @ Johnny Brenda’s ^

12.1 – Brooklyn, NY @ Union Pool ^

12.2 – Boston, MA @ Mid East Club ^

12.3 – Montreal, QC @ Bar Le Ritz ^

12.5 – Toronto, ON @ The Drake ^

12.7 – Chicago, IL @ The Hideout ^

12.9 – Seattle, WA @ The Sunset ^

12.11 – Portland, OR @ Miss Studio ^

12.13 – San Francisco, CA @ Bottom of The Hill ^

12.14 – Los Angeles, CA @ Gold Diggers ^

* w/ The National

^ w/ Aoife Nessa Frances

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