Spiral opens with a pair of playful, upbeat songs, "Dearly" and "Double-Edged Swords"; the latter never fails to put a smile on my face, with lines like "I’m running away, running faster still / Slamming into a wall / The trips that I take myself on / Always lead to a fall" being delivered at lightning speed. "Wake Up" is a heartrending appeal to a lover who has stopped trying and caring; this song was recorded live, and the pain and anger in the lyrics are conveyed unbelievably well by Allison's impassioned vocals. The title track has a dark and chaotic feel to it, aided by the relentless piano riff, some surprisingly low vocals, and a hard rocking, full band arrangement.
Speaking of arrangements, I think they are what really make Spiral stand out so much compared to the rest of Allison's material. Every song is given exactly the treatment it needs, enabling it to stand on its own as a great work of art, as well as with the rest of the songs as something that is truly greater than the sum of its parts. This is especially evident on songs like "Going Home Tonight", which features a beautiful, swirling soundscape that is absolutely mesmerizing (this song also features some extremely charming lyrics, with a few well-placed French words bringing it to another level), and "No Matter the Battle", which has some stunning interplay between the vocals, drums, and string section, with multiple crescendos being reached.
Most of Spiral can be downloaded for free from Jamendo; missing from this version are the cover songs - Leonard Cohen's "Chelsea Hotel No. 2", and two versions each of Hunters and Collectors' "Throw Your Arms Around Me" and Annie Lennox's "Why". This is because cover songs are handled by different licensing agreements, which basically makes it okay for them to be streamed but not downloaded for free. I'm not familiar with the original versions of any of these songs, but Allison's renditions of them are all incredible and well worth hearing. If you'd like to listen to the cover songs, you can check them out on Allison's own site, or on streaming sites like Grooveshark; alternatively, you can try to win a copy of the CD from Muruch, which is running a draw for two copies of the CD that ends on Friday, April 30.