Stereoshifter – Dumb Luck – EP Review
You know something? I’m pulling for these guys…I genuinely want Stereoshifter to find the success they deserve and sincerely want this project to continue after everything I’ve heard and experienced on their Dumb Luck EP. Of all the misleading titles! There’s not an ounce of dumb luck on the entire Dumb Luck EP – in fact, you’ve got two musicians solely responsible for all the awesomeness that’s in store for your face-holes, both of which sound wickedly focused on creating a maximum experience through a minimal set-up…guitars and drums. The meat and the potatoes, as they say…but expect a gigantic portion-size of energetic sounds, songs & music that’s based on the alt-90’s sound – these guys have taken their influences to heart & to their writing and delivered a wickedly entertaining set of tunes on their new EP.
To be completely truthful, I feel like I’d normally be a lot more rebellious towards the sounds of the back & forth guitar-chords that begin “Someday” – but it was the passion and sincerity of the way that Stereoshifter crafted this song that won me over entirely. I can absolutely hear the influence of many bands I’ve grown up on myself from Nirvana, Local H, Social Distortion and more…and like those many bands from the 90’s heyday, Stereoshifter also hits the mark with their mix of pop-intuition invading their thrashing alternative sound. To be fair, even in scenarios with bands I loved like Nirvana, it was songs like “Sliver” that threatened that admiration…I’ve never been one for the back & forth repetition in music generally-speaking. So how did Stereoshifter catch me right off the bat with “Someday?” Easily, that’s how. Not only can these two really pour every ounce of passion into the instrumentation – but just you wait until you hear how this song progresses from its verse to chorus! It’d be impossible for me NOT to love the sound they’ve created in the melody of “Someday” and its catchy chorus…that’s audio-gold right there. Completely accessible to all – the vibrant vibe of this track immediately welcomes you to the record and highlights the fact that these two pieces need no more than they’ve already got to massively entertain you. And dammit – you gotta love the crunch of the tone & distortion of the guitars on “Someday” – pure perfection on the sound they’re looking for and a seriously confident approach to the performances…the kind of song you can try your best to resist and meet quickly with your own failure to do so.
I was somewhat ironically greeted by a similar challenge within the brighter, bouncier attitude & sound of “Friend,” which also uses that back & forth chord-progression – yet somehow once again to their advantage! “Friend” was like a blend of Limblifter & Social Distortion…a bizarre combination of alternative-pop/rock that somehow really finds a way to work a more gentle degree of accessibility for listeners out there. I felt like even though there were comparisons that came to mind right away – it was also notable that the Stereoshifter sound itself was making itself more known through listening to this second tune. That might seem obvious to some…but if you’re following along with my bouncing-ball, what I’m saying is that you can really start to pin-point some of the signature aspects of what they include into their music to make it work as a two-piece; you also start to get familiar with their writing-style and their innate ability to explode from verse to chorus and really amplify the energy in their songs as they play on. “Friend” is another solid example of Stereoshifter kicking-in to that extra gear and really letting it rip in the chorus…but I think the more easy-going vibe in the rubbery-groove of this tune would also more than likely snag the attention of the people even more-so than the EP’s opening cut.
But here’s the thing…we all know I look for positives in music more than I hunt for negatives…I’ve always been more than okay with being on that side of the critical-fence when it comes to the independent scene. That being said, you’ve also come to rely on the fact that I’ll always be honest about what I’m hearing as well…something I never take lightly when I write one of these. I know it’s my responsibility to report things like how much I’ve been digging the way these guys write a chorus…but that the verses have been a more mixed experience for me with the back & forth chord-structures. Doesn’t mean I haven’t been completely happy with what I’ve heard so far – I certainly AM…and again, for a two-piece – these guys seriously freakin’ ROCK. The execution on their ideas has been flawless so far…I’d definitely never take away from that; the hooks that reveal themselves in any of the songs from the Dumb Luck EP are razor-sharp and guaranteed to grab your attention.
But again…WHAT am I supposed to do – tell you that I don’t love “Nothing Left To Give” somehow? Who in their right mind would say such a thing? Certainly not me – I fucking love this tune! “Nothing Left To Give” was the song that really clinched it for me…any questions that I had raised with the first two songs was quickly resolved by a song I felt moved more towards establishing their identity and added more depth to what we’ve heard on the record so far. The crunch and tone of those guitars…I absolutely CANNOT express enough love for them – they sound absolutely amazing to the ears; and as “Nothing Left To Give” begins, they’ve never sounded better. Ditching the back & forth for serious tone & texture – the ideas and structure itself spring to life here; the drums are 100% awesomeness with a near tribal-beat and solid fills that make this track become incredibly HUGE to listen to. Like a mixture of I Mother Earth and Collective Soul…”Nothing Left To Give” has guitar sounds that completely set me OFF in all the right ways…that’s the kind of uplifting energy I’m looking for in alt-rock. I mean that sincerely…there’s a contrast that exists between the lyrics and energy in the music that’s not lost on me either…but it works well on all levels. You can enjoy the music for the amazing performance they’ve put in here, the production for the immaculate tones and sound, the lyrics for their poetic & melodic approach in the verse or the subtle-angst of the chorus…it’s a really cleverly written song set to fully satisfy, and in my opinion, completely accomplishes its mission.
As if they needed to somehow find another way to impress us all, “Goodbye” keeps them on-target with another easy-to-like song that makes the most of its every moment and gripping pop-inclined energy. A wicked mix of post-punk-meets-post-grunge, you can hear the roots of influences from bands like Superchunk or Dinosaur Jr., and in-turn, the influence that bands like The Cure had on their sound. Like a long chain of dominoes…there are always those that have helped blaze the trails before we travel them ourselves, and I think it’s through songs like “Goodbye” that you hear the respect for the past and preservation of a sound we all hold dear. There’s an audibly tenderized approach that Stereoshifter takes into “Goodbye” that you can easily hear…like a tune that’s slightly more personal or emotionally connected to them through its vibe, energy & lyrics. For myself personally, I liked that I felt like the verse outshined the chorus a bit on this particular tune…it’s usually been the other way around for me in what I’ve heard so far. The guitars in this song find incredible melody that leads the way alongside the crisp beat…and overall, “Goodbye” might sound a little more loosely structured through its lyrics, but to me, they really fit the mood expertly here by largely keeping them simple and to the point as they connect their intentions and ambitions to the emotions within their sound. I suppose it felt slightly more organic in a sense…a bit more natural in-trade for each part being completely zoomed-in on and examined…like they let “Goodbye” just flow right out of them, and the resulting sincerity in the rock you hear just magically appeared. That’s obviously not to take away from their writing here…quite the opposite really – it’s not an easy task to always make defined-parts & a hazy-atmosphere sound as natural as they’ve pulled it off here.
With the blues-rock twinge to the sound of the final-cut “Streetwalker” added to the beginning, you’ve gotta hand it to this two-piece for really making the most out of a five-song set on the Dumb Luck EP – I think they’ve given us all something seriously electrifying to listen to in some way, shape, form, melody-line, rhythm or groove – there’s something for everyone here. “Streetwalker” dips closer to The Black Keys than I’d personally have liked to hear them head towards…BUT…as a two-piece band I can certainly understand the influence and the curiosity that might come along with exploring some of those explosively rad ideas. The Black Keys have certainly written some incredible singles…that I can’t deny; I’m by no means a huge fan of their overall catalog – but I do think they’ve given a few bands out there like Stereoshifter a solid blueprint to follow in terms of what to do to get it RIGHT. Any listening experience into their music from any record of theirs in my opinion highlights the fact that The Black Keys can write a seriously killer song…and then follow it up with some yawning & sprawling filler – the separation between their standards is incredibly easy to hear & pick apart and I think that the recipe they’ve got for the songs that work is certainly one that many bands out there have adopted today. Stereoshifter here at the end of the Dumb Luck EP is no exception…they’ve peeked at the recipe here before heading off on their own to add their own ingredients – and as this song heads into the 1:20 mark, I can’t deny it’s pretty much like, EVERYTHING I want to hear in the energy of a transition like this. By the end, I wanted MORE of that part desperately – but they only give it to you ONCE before they decide to straight-up HOG the song with like, you know, all kinds of awesome instrumentation, guitar-solos, relentlessly pounding drums and other things getting in the way. I mean…adding to the mix and idea…yeahhhhhh…that’s what I meant! Alright…so I can’t deny it…it’s that real kick-in to “Streetwalker” from the blues-rock atmosphere into the straight-up rock-fury that did it for me in this song…that moment was worth the price of admission to this ride alone; but I also can’t deny I really loved hearing Stereoshifter try something extraordinarily new for their sound right at the end of the record here as well. As much as I loved that furious moment of transition that “Streetwalker” takes on – everything about this song really hit the mark as an idea and they execute this one so confidently, so slyly yet so enormously by the end that it really makes you smile when you realize just how much two people can accomplish.
Real credit to Josh Cal (Vocals, Guitars) and Peter Higgins (Drums) – these guys seriously ROCK and provided a wild ride through five songs that brilliantly explode & crash through the speakers to start the party wherever you’re at. Definitely seem like sincere and genuine entertainers here…and they certainly understand the strength and writing of a solid hook; I’d bet on these guys to really start cooking over the next five years as they build on what they’ve done here on their Dumb Luck EP. Wicked introduction to this band and I’m already excited for more – be sure to check out the next couple of episodes of the SBS Podcast at the end of the year and beginning of 2017…I wanna do my part in helping put the word out on these guys and the best way to do that is to play you some tunes. We’ll be featuring Stereoshifter tunes on both episodes, one from their Dumb Luck EP and a brand-new tune set to be released as a single at the beginning of 2017 debuting on the first show in January! These guys make real noise in all the right ways and I’m stoked they’ll be on the show – but even more stoked that they’ve clearly already got their sights & music set on a fantastic 2017. They’re ready to make their mark…and if they keep up the consistency, quality & energy that they’ve got all over the Dumb Luck EP, they’ll have no problem establishing the serious impact they want to make over the next years to follow.
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