2008 was a banner year for Windsor music. Led by now international sensation Neverending White Lights, whose albums continue to soar up charts across the country, collecting Juno and MuchMusicVideo Award nominations and accolades a plenty, followed by the alt. rock success of One Man’s Opinion in the U.S. and on Modern Rock radio, the acclaimed festival showcases of The Golden Hands Before God while touring for their North American wide release, the tireless tours and MuchMusic infiltration of Michou, the late year domination of the North American critics for Fiftywatthead’s latest offering, as well as the onward and upward skyrocketing of Pat Robitaille, Windsor has been striking gold more often than not with its musical ambassadors as they take their wares on the road and the airwaves.
With 2009 only a few months old, I’d like to offer a name for you to remember as a candidate for our Next One. StereoGoesStellar.
This five piece has been working hard on the local circuit for the past few years, releasing an EP in 2006 called Jumpin’ The Skull to local acclaim, while slowing building one of the scene’s most vocal and loyal fan bases. Built around the majestic piano and soaring vocals of singer Jeremy Coulter without being exclusive of the remaining four members, they have built a sound that is fresh and new while being altogether familiar.
On Saturday February 28, StereoGoesStellar will be holding a CD release party at Plush Lounge (375 Ouellette Ave.) to celebrate the release of their self titled full length debut, a 12- track collection that offers something for just about everyone. As Coulter mentions in their Press Release, the CD is “a great representation of the music our band creates…from fast upbeat songs to more somber slower songs.” It’s that diversity that marks the band’s strengths.
At first listen, the album almost comes across as a schizophrenic 16-year old, not sure whether it wants to jump on its bed screaming for just for fun or stare at the stars through a broken telescope. But on repeated listenings it becomes obvious that their influences run deep and wide and it’s their unbridled love for music that shines through. And if you aren’t a fan of one track, just skip to the next one…their sound is so varied that you’re bound to find one that sticks to you for days.
The album starts off with what could easily be their first single, a playful romp called “88 Keys”, that immediately will draw some comparisons to their scene siblings Michou. Although it may simply be because of the naked honesty of Coulter’s voice (it’s painful fragility is very similar to that of Michou’s Michael Hargreaves), StereoGoesStellar definitely deserves to be noted for their own musical voice and choice of directions. The second track, “Far Too Gone”, drew a whirlwind of recollections for me, almost sounding like a remastered gem from the 1980’s from The Outfield, or perhaps a B-side from 90’s indie rock band Idlewild. On tracks like “Night” they show they’re not afraid to sway from what predictable waters and try a different approach, not only to songwriting, but to actual musical delivery and it comes off damn near as good as anything Death Cab For Cutie has released lately (perhaps since Transatlanticsm).
But while their faster poppier songs are no doubt the highlights of their live shows (you can feel how good their shows probably are just listening to them), it’s on the slower tracks that StereoGoesStellar really shows what it can offer beyond what most of their local peers can do. An honesty in the song that revels in its simplicity and uses that to accentuate the poignant drama of the lyrics themselves. Ben Folds would do well to check this CD out as my favourite two tracks on the CD are “The Worlds Greatest Fadeout” and “Wish Upon A Plastic Star” are two classics that immediately brought to mind the soothing comfort I found in the haunting melody of Ben Folds’ 90’s staple “Brick”.
The last track seems like a surprising addition as it’s a mellow take on the Pat Benatar 80’s classic “Hit Me With Your Best Shot”, reinvented as a desperate plea to an ex-lover rather than the searing angst-laden rocker it started out as. Their version got such glowing approval from original songwriter Eddie Schwartz that he insisted on doing additional production and mixing on the track.
The album definitely has a few misfires but as an entire collection it’s a joy to listen to – the hits greatly outshine any of the misses. It definitely makes one long to hear the songs live and offers an eagerness to hear how this band will mature on future releases.