Spoken word is a frustrating genre. It’s not recited poetry and it’s not exactly rap. It’s been around for centuries, used by a plethora of ideologies and showcased in a number of styles along the way. Levi the Poet (full name: Levi MacAllister), however, has found his niche, now thriving off the genre’s murkiness.
His new album, Correspondence (A Fiction) tells the story of two young lovers separated after the woman goes to sea with her father. The boy promises her a treehouse, and they communicate through messages in bottles.
Lyrically, this album is a maze of complex allusions, wordplay and literary references with thematic elements including the pains of maturing, broken promises, forgiveness, childhood fantasies, patience and unending love. You’ll feel uncomfortable if you pay attention to the lyrics, because MacAllister doesn’t pull any punches. An example: “I truly do not know if time heals all wounds / It sounds like wishful thinking / But I do know that you can’t stop living just because someone else has.”
Sometimes he’s just clever. In one of the boy’s letters, he describes what the boy is thinking after he’s been separated from his lover for a long time: “I’ve been picking up splinters lumber for the floor boards and wondering about all of our splintered promises.”
Correspondence also highlights MacAllister’s vocal maturity. He used to deliver his poems with more screaming and eccentricity (check out “Memories” or “Kaleidoscope” from his previous collection for a good example), but here in his latest release, he’s more poised but retains his passion.
Although the lyrical content is more tangible to critique, the music isn’t forgettable. On this release, Levi the Poet had music strung behind his poems after they were written. Instead, it fills the gaps with elegance and gifts each poem its own unique brand, full of chimes, delicate percussion, natural sound effects and whimsical electrical instruments.
Correspondence is a chaotic and beautiful mess of supercharged spoken word set to a documentary soundtrack of a backbone that avoids clichés. Even still, it never becomes obnoxious or superfluous, either. It’s just the right of salt and sugar and all emotions of the listener follow suit.