Philip Stevenson: Starless
With the fast paced World Cup tournament taking a break, and New England’s death-like grip known as heat and humidity releasing for a few moments, I decided to jump back into reviewing albums. Just know this, I’m cranky from lack of sleep and so this may not be the best time. Apologies aside, its time to get down to business.
Philip Stevenson’s latest release Starless feels a bit like the title says. He has a bit of bluesy, alternative rock sound which may not be most popular these days. That’s not to say it doesn’t sound good. The problem is that nothing about the album makes it stand out. And it is more disappointing because the first four tracks do a good job of getting your attention.
The opening track “Anatomy” immediately had me thinking of Urge Overkill. Not necessarily musically, but vocally. Stevenson’s low singing has that extremely forced tinge to it, as though he were trying to sound deeper than he was.
Then on “Deuteronomy” I had a blast from my past. I couldn’t help but hear the similarities to Nirvana’s “About a Girl”, and even took a small break to have a quick listen to Bleach. This song could have made it easily onto that album, if only Nirvana had used saxophones and organs. But an organ would be pretty difficult to lift over your head and smash onto the stage. Still, the guitar parts sound a lot like “About a Girl” and there’s nothing wrong with that.
“Fix Me” is a ballad that is both warm and cold. Again, musically I enjoyed it particularly as one of the tracks where the guitars don’t drown out his vocals. But then, his voice starts to put me to sleep. I’m not saying Stevenson isn’t a better singer than me, I’m just wondering if he should be singing.
“I’m a Boy” is the standout track on the album. The uptempo blues song gives some life an album that starts to feel bogged down from this point out. Its still difficult to hear what he’s singing, but at lest musically they remind me of Cake when they take a crack at blues.
Still, the production continually puts emphasis on the guitars over the vocals. And maybe that’s their way of trying to cover up Stevenson’s vocals. Starless is packed with a lot to listen with 11 full songs and 3 instrumental breaks. Yet, nothing about the album really makes it jump out. I feel as though I could hear similar music at a local bar or club by a local band. That doesn’t mean its not productive, I just don’t know that there is a large audience for it. So, in a way the title makes sense. A mediocre sound is a lot like a sky without a star. Its still there, but it gets boring fast.
MP3:Philip Stevenson “Deuteronomy”
Philip Stevenson: Starless