On her third album, Speed Queen, Little Scream offers us a reflection on class and poverty in America. The album began as bits of prose written while touring her last album across North America—observing the slow entropy of the US, ruminating on her own low income upbringing in a flyover state, and as she said “taking it all in from the privileged position of being a new Canadian.“
The title, which alludes to the opiate crises, actually refers to a washing machine. Little Scream says “When you’re struggling, nothing says you’ve made it more than getting your own washing machine. Speed Queen is about the dream of making it, and feeling desperately close but missing it.”
The album is gently accusatory. She doesn’t let herself or any of her listeners off the hook. In “Privileged Child” she reminds wealthy people who like to adopt the style of the poor and working class that “poverty’s a feeling money just can’t buy”. On “Dear Leader”, she reminds those opposing migration “when the waters rise, it’s gonna be you, Miami”, warning them that when they’re needing help “…you will ask your God, but he’ll be busy getting risen, and the rich will be too busy buying stock in private prisons—that’s where they’ll send you for talking about socialism”. The biting commentary served with a sense of humor, softens its presentation but doesn’t detract from its power. This is a theme throughout Speed Queen, where humor and warm heartedness prevail despite some of the darker subjects touched upon.
Montreal-based songwriter and guitarist Laurel Sprengelmeyer has been playing music under the moniker Little Scream since 2008. In 2011 she released The Golden Record, which Pitchfork dubbed “a stellar debut” and NPR called “an absolutely captivating record”. It was included in NPR’s Best Albums of 2011 list, and the New York Times evoked its “hints of the divine”, including Little Scream as one of the best new acts to follow at SXSW. Her second album Cult Following (2016) received band of the week status from The Guardian and 5 stars from Bust Magazine, and featured guests including Sufjan Stevens, Mary Margaret O’hara, and Sharon Van Etten. Cult Following included the catchy Prince-inspired single “Love as a Weapon”, which according to the liner notes, she and her sister hoped would buy their Mom, a cleaning woman in Illinois, “unlimited gift certificates to the Red Lobster”.
Since the release of Cult Following, Little Scream has stayed busy as a member of Richard Reed Parry’s Quiet River of Dust, touring with and co-writing songs from the albums Volume 1: This Side of the River (2018, ANTI/Secret City) and Volume 2: That Side of the River (2019, ANTI/Secret City). A natural collaborator, she has appeared as a vocalist and/or guitarist on recordings for The National, The Barr Brothers, Will Butler, and Saltland, among others. She has appeared on two Red Hot compilations, and charity singles to benefit the ACLU, Planned Parenthood, and Standing Rock.