London-based singer-songwriter Al Spx (aka Cold Specks
) does for soul what the XX has done for R&B: her stripped-down songs combine melancholy melody and chilly, gothic production that practically uses reverb as another instrument, and they're often most powerful when Spx lets only a few notes glide past at a time. Sometimes it sounds as though Spx wrote the songs on her 2012 debut, I Predict a Graceful Expulsion
(Mute), as a cappella numbers, then carefully arranged their nimble, low-key guitars, slowly swelling piano parts, and minimal horns, drums, and bass around her sorrowful voice. When they begin, "Blank Maps
" and "When the City Lights Dim" sound like they were recorded in a frigid cave, but Spx's earthy, velvety singing fills those barren spaces as confidently as it dominates the tunes' relatively bustling climaxes—and I'm pretty sure it'd hold up to an old-school big-band soul sound too. —Leor Galil Esta Vivo opens.