For Fans Of
Laura Stevenson first came to attention as keyboardist of Long Island-based punk collective Bomb the Music Industry! In 2010, Stevenson got together a backing band – The Cans – and released debut album ‘A Record‘. A year later came sophomore album ‘Sit Resist‘ to modest acclaim. With 2013 comes the release of Stevenson‘s third album ‘Wheel‘, an incredibly impressive album that demonstrates Stevenson‘s prowess at crafting lightly country-tinged indie folk/rock.
First track ‘Renee’ is a gentle folk song that immediately displays Stevenson‘s penchant for sentimental balladry. Soaring strings and subtle, understated percussion help deliver one of the more memorable openers of late. That said, settling down for a quiet acoustic affair would be foolish, and as we lead into ‘Triangle’, an electric guitar-driven Americana-influenced number we’re introduced to the enigmatic and diverse nature of the thirteen songs collected on ‘Wheel‘.
Stevenson‘s ability to explore as many moods and styles as she does on ‘Wheel‘ comes through both in composition and the sheer range of her vocals. The boisterous, whiskey-soaked ‘Sink, Swim’ sees a lively Stevenson sing with a forceful and demanding tone – this is followed by ‘The Hole’, an acoustic, Ryan Adams-esque track that maintains both chipper and melancholic. In comparison to the track that precedes it, a crestfallen Stevenson croons – “I wouldn’t blame you if you leave / it’s not the way you were supposed to be”. Naturally, this leads into ‘Eleonora’ – a melodic, guitar-heavy indie rock gem.
That Stevenson attempts to be as diverse as she does on ‘Wheel‘ is occasionally something of a double-edged sword. While it’s incredibly refreshing for a singer-songwriter to stray this far away from the formulaic nature of that avenue, at times it can feel like this detracts from a feeling of cohesiveness throughout.
Lyrically, Stevenson‘s songwriting swerves between sincere, heart-on-her-sleeve fare while managing to keep a few things tucked safely away. In an environment where so many artists shroud lyrical intent in mystery, when Stevenson, on ‘The Move’, promises “I could make you happy / I could make you coffee / When I wake up, if you haven’t made some already”, simple as it is, is so effective because when you get down to it, it’s familiar. It’s real life, and it works.
On album closer ‘The Wheel’, Stevenson transitions from tender, almost-whispered vocals and softly-plucked acoustic guitars into a loud, sustained cry. She shows some of her scars, and is arguably at her most bare, before the song leads out with a triumphant horn section and a quiet acceptance – “I’ll turn over like a wheel”.
A simultaneously ambitious and vulnerable record, Laura Stevenson develops something truly incredible throughout the 13 songs featured on ‘Wheel’. Heartfelt and honest, it’s almost worth purchase based on lyrics alone – that the album features beautifully crafted instrumentation that complements Stevenson’s voice as well as it does makes it a must listen.
4. Every Tense
5. Bells and Whistles
6. Sink, Swim
7. The Hole
9. The Move
10. Journey to the Center of the Earth
13. The Wheel