(Photo from Spotify)
The moment that listeners enter American pop singer Spellling’s 2021 album “The Turning Wheel,” they are sucker-punched by rich violin, lush piano, ghostly wisps of music, and strong drums, all bathed in a synth undertone. This instrumental journey is merely an eruption for the grand finale: a brand-new musical journey before the intro track “Little Deer” reaches two minutes. After this introductory palate cleanse, a vivacious chorus pops in.
For the remainder of “Little Deer,” Spellling transports the audience into an otherworldly state. She finishes the first chapter of “The Turning Wheel” with complex questionings of the mysteries concerning life, death, and reincarnation. This is accomplished with the metaphor of a hunter contemplating the killing of a small deer.
The beginning of “The Turning Wheel” fully represents the whimsical setting that Spellling has created to share her personal woes. In the next track, “Always,” she retains the imaginative setting with blues elements to more directly interpret her newfound distress. Detailing her fear of love and heartbreak, she contemplates seeking protection within her fantasies despite the loneliness that comes from reclusion.
As you reach the third and title track, “Turning Wheel,” there is a fascinating regression as Spellling returns to personal folklore with subtle references to her own life. In this song, she processes the unstoppable movement of time, coming to terms with the impossibility of peace and stagnation during today’s modern age. Medieval imagery and scripture-based themes blend with explosive instrumentals to create a digestible version of her foreboding thoughts.
Journeying further through this album, it becomes easier to understand the core objective that she seeks to reach through the 12 tracks — questioning the impossible. Whether her own personal memories to set the picture in “Boys at School,” or a new world and language to unravel the unexplainable “Queen of Wands,” Spellling pushes through every mental block and creates any necessary sound imaginable to fully pour her heart out.
She also slips in imaginary tales, such as the track “Emperor with an Egg,” which marks the album’s middle point. This fairytale of a song depicts an emperor penguin who shows off his prized egg for his kingdom to see, regardless of the dangers that may come. Although this song holds as much intricacy as any other track on the album, Spellling provides it as an interlude to let listeners’ minds take a break from the inventive themes of “The Turning Wheel.”
As a result, Spellling creates her own fable by separating the album into four acts with three chapters each, taking the listener through various emotional journeys. Each chapter becomes more melancholy and complex before reaching the album’s epilogue. Spellling shared that the album is structured as an ever-revolving story where you are further “submerged before coming out the other side” in a constant “cycle.”
This idea is highlighted in one of the album’s closing tracks, “Revolution,” in which she sings “What I want is a fire that never goes out…I’m in a permanent revolution.” Spellling acknowledges that emotions are vital for her progress, yet realizes that like all humans, she is naturally regressive and cannot escape the revolving cycle of life.
With the final track, “Sweet Talk,” Spellling reflects on her internal journey and the beauty that comes from the everlasting cycle of life, as well as the evolution of sound and music that comes from these constant life voyages. The audience is brought back to the eruptive opening that sparked their interest in the very beginning of the album, allowing them to take the mystical journey of “The Turning Wheel” all over again.
If you have ever desired to venture into a brand-new world where you could manifest any concept and emotion possible, look no further than Spellling’s “The Turning Wheel.” I give this album five crabs!
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