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The Autumn Stones - 'Escapists' (album stream) (premiere)

The Toronto band sounds more seasoned on their new album Escapists, which has been four years in the making.

Toronto's the Autumn Stones released their first album of lush, dreamy and sharply written pop tunes in 2011. That record, Companions Of The Flame, was so beguiling that it left some people (such as yours truly) wondering what the holdup was for album number two. Regarding that follow-up, singer and songwriter Cieran Megahey reports that, "we have a full-time horn player so our sound has a lot more character and nuance. Escapists has been four years in the making, which gave us lots of time to refine and shape it, and give the public something that really is our best work."

One listen to songs like the blistering "Endless War" or the jaunty "In With The Out Crowd" and you'd be hard-pressed to argue with either assertion. In fact, new horn man Gary Butler's influence is seen throughout the record, bringing wistfulness to the smoldering slow-burn of tracks like "Oh La La" and adding both punch and a deftly classic pop touch throughout the record. The rhythm section of bassist Marcus Tamm and drummer Matthew McLaughlin sounds more seasoned too, knowing when to drive things forward, when to throttle back and generally letting these sometimes dense songs find their groove.

"Lyrically, Escapists is a celebration of life, love and liberty. It's also a flick to the nose of naughty faith-based ideologies," says Megahey. "Although that may sound super-heavy and serious, we aren't delivering sermons -- just trying to give people a compelling listening experience." And it's true that songs like "End Of Faith" or "Dark Age" are ambitious grapplings with the big ideas like faith and politics but they can also sit comfortably next to more intimate character sketches like "Sweet Libertine" or personally political songs like the stinging "Spirit Shadows".

Available 7 July, you can stream Escapists entirely right here and sample the Autumn Stones' new direction for yourself.

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