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Stepdad

Strange Tonight EP

(Quite Scientific; US: 4 Mar 2014; UK: 4 Mar 2014)

Michigan indietronica outfit Stepdad’s first two releases, Ordinaire EP and 2012’s excellent Wildlife Pop, positioned Stepdad in a specific synthpop lane, one of thumping beats, wild-eyed synthesizers and unabashed joy, the soundtrack to a chunky man in shades and an undershirt just rocking out to the beat, dancing his way to the weekend. The Strange Tonight EP manages to stay within that lane, though with a welcome hint of experimentation.


The EP’s first half is pleasantly layered and recognizably Stepdad with its bassy thud, shimmering surfaces, baritone-and-falsetto vocals, and smattering of electro detritus. Elsewhere, the 8-bit power pop transmogrifies into 16-bit balladry with “It’s You” and “Evening at Marie’s”. The latter is one of the most sober tracks in the Stepdad catalog, and the lyrics are downright personal and contemplative. Think Passion Pit’s “Constant Conversations” but sped up, with a soaring red wine-doused chorus. “I see my nightmares coming true,” ultramark declares, his voice clear and earnest, before a heartfelt refrain that alternates lines like “I promise I’ll do what I can” and “I’m just a man” with “keep the devil out of my hands”. It’s a step away from the high-flying over-the-topness of “My Leather, My Fur, My Nails”, but it works, and the second half of Strange Tonight demonstrates the wide potential for Stepdad’s aesthetic, even if it doesn’t quite capture the overall joyfulness of previous releases.


This is Stepdad’s third offering in 4 years and, so far, their record is spotless. There’s not a bad release among them, which should be grounds enough for a half dozen Grammys and a stint as Seth Meyers’ house band.

Rating:

Adam Finley has two unmarketable degrees and a framed picture of Arnold Schwarzenegger in his office. He's been in the freelance game since 2007. He writes music reviews, political essays, non-award-winning short fiction, travel articles, and Limp Bizkit haiku. He once published a story about a chimpanzee. He is still shocked that people are willing to pay him money to write words. His dream is to ride a manatee.


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14 Jun 2012
There is subtlety in the vocals amid the sugary bombast of music, rendering Wildlife Pop an album made, somehow, both for headphones and magical dreamland amphitheaters where unicorns take the place of performers and woodland creatures dance merrily to the beat.
5 Sep 2011
Stepdad is a fresh breeze blowing through the self-important indie scene, clearing away the thick irony and Parliament Light smoke for something a little more enticing... fun.
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