Essential New Music: Sparrow Steeple’s “Tip Top Sorcerer”

Sparrow Steeple beckons. Follow that crooked finger and you’ll soon find yourself tumbling down the sort of rabbit hole that Lewis Carroll used to dig when he wanted to make sure that his readers got good and lost. Down there, you will be threatened by “Stabbing Wizards” and take mortal pun damage from “Handy Andean Indian,” and if you’re made of the right stuff, you’ll sit right back up and roll the 12-sided dice again.

This Philly combo is mostly composed of musicians who’ve also played in Strapping Fieldhands, and they navigate easily between T.Rex-like riffing and hobbit-snaring strum-alongs. But it’s singer Barry Goldberg who burns the deepest brand upon your brain. His fluttering delivery brings to mind Bryan Ferry back when the dapper one could still hit some high notes, and he has requisite denial of encroaching ridiculousness that you just have to have if you’re going to be an art-rock frontman. Tip Top Sorcerer synthesizes record-collector geekdom and role-playing gamer nerddom using alchemy that could get you banned in several alternate universes to come up with something greater than its already commanding parts. 

Bill Meyer