More Than Animals/Self-released
More Than Animals is an eclectic, largely engaging album. If you like your British singer-songwriters with a little bit of swagger, then Stoney’s your guy. “Sweet Release” is a raucous piece of pop rock, and driving numbers like “The Score” crank up the energy. “Devil on My Back” is a groovy stomper that sounds like it’s been on an acid trip, and on the closer, “Round Here,” Stoney does a Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde dance with a palatable, moody first half that explodes into a sinister rock song by the end. More than an exploration of Stoney’s broad sonic palette, the album digs into weightier topics. On “Bedpost,” Stoney ponders a greater worth than a sexual, animalistic nature, and whispers resignedly in “Round Here” that none of his exploits and cares will go with him beyond the grave. Dark and energetic one moment, unexpectedly thoughtful the next, More Than Animals is a striking record.
Singer-songwriter Jess Novak’s debut release is chock full of raw and intelligent tales, and she imbues even the most journal entry-style subjects with enough universal appeal to make them relatable. Her songs range from acoustic folk (“Worth It”) to blues (“Haven’t Found You Yet”), and sometimes blur the lines between the two (“Let You Know,” “Simple”). “Fritzi” stands out as Novak’s dusty vocals convey the powerlessness felt in the face of tragedy, and how the world goes on like nothing happened. On the acoustic closer “Zack,” Novak is at her most honest and vulnerable when she mourns a loss, “We don’t hate you God/We just want ’em back.” Written and performed with the grace and skill of a seasoned veteran, Bad Habit is one you’ll want to get into.
The third release from States is an engaging sonic and lyrical exploration of new directions. While its previous efforts have not been singularly focused, a lot of Paradigm centers on the aftereffects of broken relationships. Echoing pop rocker “I Hope You Stay Gone,” laments a former flame, and on “Erase it All,” singer Mindy White confidently proclaims “This is not a love song for you.” The ambient, otherworldly rock ‘n’ roll of “Circles,” “Closer,” and “Summer Love,” is dreamy, and White’s clear, angelic vocals and her lyrical takes on relationship turbulence is noteworthy. The pop rock melodies on Paradigm are divine.