In addition to being one of the coolest writers around, an expert in everything from jazz, to death metal, to Ween, Hank Shteamer is the drummer and vocalist for Brooklyn band STATS. As it so happens, the band is as eclectic as Shteamer’s musical taste, a wildly creative mishmash of Melvins-derived sludge and Beefheart-esque experimentation. Massively heavy but showing a progressive nimbleness that you don’t exactly hear in sludge/noise-oriented bands, the band’s debut album makes for an absurdly delightful listening experience.
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It has an inventive build-up, with its DIY quality and dazzling timbres making it consistently mysterious and engaging. Vocally and melodically, Beal evokes his soulful forefathers, which, when done right, is more difficult than it seems. It reminds me a bit of certain tracks from Plastic Beach by Gorillaz, actually. It’s a bit too sparse, though, since Beal’s voice deserves a more luscious arrangement. The contrast between his robust delivery and the limited composition is part of the intrigue, though, so yeah, I’m a bit torn on this one.—JORDAN BLUM (7/10)
With a sound that is reminiscent of both Alex Chilton and the cheekier side of UK powerpop, Rhode Island artist Andy Lampert is not lacking in wry humor. First, he named his 15-song debut album 10 Songs of Pain (does it have five happy songs?), and even better, he comes up with a dandy of a chorusing his track “Even I Can Dream”, singing measuredly, “I am trying not to lose my friggin’ mind.” It’s a wonderful expression of modern despair that we all can relate to.
What is this? A new single that rocks? Rare as unicorn teeth, but here it is. He throws everything in: Portentous guitars, impassioned backing vocals, super orchestral splashes thrown around for kicks. Essentially it’s a track about itself and music in general, the “healing” in the song being the healing of “The Healing”. The theme saves the day because lyrically “The Healing” is not that interesting. The only thing better than a song about itself is a song where the singer references himself in a “Move over, Rover / Let Jimi take over” type manoeuvre. Word of advice for young Gary, there can never be an excess of rock. No-one has ever earnestly complained, “This song rocks too much.” So feel free to cut loose. The end of the track could have benefited from just that.—PAUL DUFFUS (8/10)
Harmless mid-90s ‘alt rock’ balladeering. Picture Claire Danes staring forlornly out a window, twisting the ends of her plaid shirt between her fingers. Will Jared Leto ever see her? I mean, ‘really’ see her—for her? A tear rolls as “Skin” plays idly in the background. Except it’s 20 years later now and Claire is fighting terrorists and Jared is the Joker, so you might well ask if “Skin” is really what the world needs. Still, it jangles, it rises, it falls. Lyrically there’s a lot of talk about pain and crying and “not being satisfied”, the kind of thing that writes itself. Innocuous, unnecessary nostalgia.—PAUL DUFFUS (4/10)