Stray Tablet – Singles Review
If there was ever a reason as to why I tend to take as long as I do with the music I’m listening to, Stray Tablet is a perfect example of how that’s important. Some artists & bands out there in this scene we share are very much like a verifiable fungus…they can take a little bit of time to properly grow on ya. For example – if I was just listening to Stray Tablet in passing quickly…honestly, who knows WHAT I’d think of it all; but with a bit of time spent tuning into the strange world of sound being created in this project, as bizarre as it all may be (and truly IS), it’s always interesting to me that I always feel like I can find the gateway into even the craziest concoctions & audible odysseys. As much as I can easily acknowledge that something like Stray Tablet really ain’t gonna be for everybody out there – I enjoy the offbeat, the weird, the creative, and the artistic crowd that pumps the heartbeat of uniqueness in our music-scene. At the very least, a project like this is SO DIFFERENT that it can’t help but make me smile – to think that some people out there continually listen to the same basic thing is pretty much my version of complete hell; pass or fail, going your own way is always guaranteed to have you standing out from the rest. How could that not be a good thing? Being memorable is priceless, and so much rarer than you might realize.
It’s always interesting to me to find out what the perception of an artist or band’s songs best tunes would be from their own perspective – I’m drawing directly from a list that Stray Tablet’s created, and it’s the kind of varied selection that makes you seriously wonder what in the all-heck didn’t make the cut, know what I mean? As I listened to “Dry Tonight” as my adventures began…and Stray Tablet continually mused on what might happen “if the well ran dry tonight” all I could think to myself was – “does it? Ever?” Believe me…we all experience a drought in our creativity here & there along the way – but most people wouldn’t have had the courage to push record and try to figure that all out in real-time, you following me? Stray Tablet instantly establishes this project as an acquired taste right off the bat – this is music made without fear of being the oddball…and in looking at it from that lens under the ol’ microscope, it’s pretty hard to conceive of a time where this well would ever run dry. There’s not an ounce of me that would ever claim this is gonna be for everyone – but listen to the cleverness you’ll find in how things completely switch up as this cut ticks past the first minute…or the keys that come in after the second minute…the way the music and the vocals, strange as they may be (and truly ARE) interact. I don’t know if I’d go quite as far as to say this is genius, but I do know that genius is often misunderstood – there IS something here, but I’ll be damned if I have any clue as to WHAT it is myself even. I’ve heard just a few tunes in my lifetime folks…and I can say conclusively without hesitation, there’s not much out there like Stray Tablet – “Dry Tonight” is more than 5:30 in length, and it is one seriously trippin’ tune.
It’d be interesting to know what the intent and ambitions are in Stray Tablet. To me, there’s no doubt that this is beyond the scope of what most people out there would be able to handle, even with a healthy dose of artistic grace. I listen to a track like “Little Dragon Fly” and start to assume that maybe these songs are more of a vehicle for the poetry of the words – but even that’s so abstract, odd, and straight-up strange that it’s extremely tough to follow. There’s a performance element to these songs that shows promise through the artistic expression of it all…but in terms of what’s accessible and listenable to the masses – personally, I think Stray Tablet is asking a LOT of the average everyday listener. Still…underneath the surface of the strangeness, you’ve got elements that reveal some kind of really bizarre potential – like, I actually love the bass in this song, and I’ve got no issues with the piano either. Again, I’d love to know what Stray Tablet feels like the goals are…if it’s making music for the sake of making music, or a genuine attempt to reach the masses…it’s really about what we want to achieve as content creators. If you’re satisfied with making music that you like to listen to, expressing yourself in whichever ways you like, and you’re happy with all that – then you’ll find I’ve got nothing but high-fives for ya. If the goals are reaching the mainstream…then I think obviously there would be plenty of tweaks that would need to be made. I see the comments that are being made about “Little Dragon Fly” online – and the best I can tell Stray Tablet with respect to that is, you’re completely welcome to take their one sentence (half sentence?) comments as the gospel truth, or you can examine what I’m saying to help ya.
Because look…simple & plain, people are far too timid when it comes to handing out criticism or advice – everyone wants to be nice and I totally get it. That being said, I’ve always been THAT dude that’ll tell ya as straight up as anyone out there ever will…I’ve told cancer patients & people with months to live that their music hasn’t quite hit the mark in the past, because no matter the cost, I believe honesty is a way better compliment to the creative community over anything else. I listen to a track like “My Song” and have to assume that Stray Tablet gets exactly what I mean on some level at least – I can’t imagine I’d be the first to comment about just how strange or unique this project’s music truly IS – but there’s nothing that I should be able to say, or anyone else for that matter, that should stop this dude from singing it out, loud & proud, like none of us even exist. I think the jury’s still completely out on that anyhow given that I’m like, 99% sure simulation theory is a real thing – but that’s beside the point. All I’m saying is sing your song brother-man of Stray Tablet on the mic…do your thing, dance your dance, you do you – that’s all that really matters in this world, and from what I can tell, “My Song” speaks about this directly. I think that in general, Stray Tablet is just a hair or two away from being considered a Spoken Word project anyhow…and the reality of anything that even comes close to that particular style or actual genre, is that the audience narrows quite a bit. Stray Tablet might have an idea of how to sing “My Song” – but for the most part, it’s an approach to writing that’s so different & unexpected that the rest of the people out there have next to no chance of being able to sing along with’em – make sense? Clear as mud? I suppose what I’m saying in a nutshell here, is that in listening to the absolutely wildly imaginative music to be found on a track like “My Song” and how much interest it generates in my ears personally…sure, you bet I wonder what the reaction would be to Stray Tablet going the instrumental route. Would it be more favorable in general? I’m nearly positive that it would be. I’m not here to tell ya that the vocals are this or the vocals are that – people like what they like and that’s always going to be the reality of the situation. Like I said, anything close to Spoken Word generates resistance in the masses…and I suspect it always will. These tunes from Stray Tablet are largely vehicles for the poetry in behind the music…the vocals aren’t necessarily an afterthought, but very close in how they come out in the end, you feel me? Then you’ve got music on a track like “My Song” that is…hmmm…pretty much off the charts brilliant, immensely expressive, and extremely enjoyable – it’s ALIVE and THRIVING with sound, tones, and frequencies your ears won’t be able to get enough of. So here we are at the crossroads where the creative realm tends to reach at least a couple times in every career at some point along the way…do you stay true to who you are and keep singing “My Song” the way YOU sing it without compromise? Or do you find that next level & an ability to tweak & twist things into the accessible realm somehow? If a song falls in the forest and no one’s around to hear it – does it make any sound? There’s so much that I love about the spark of inventive innovation in a track like “My Song” musically.
To be completely fair to Stray Tablet, one thing is true above all other things in how people will listen to this music and receive it – and that’s that NO ONE out there will be INDIFFERENT about it. Pass or fail, love it or hate it – the results DO NOT MATTER dear readers, dear friends…and they truly never will. Like I was tellin’ ya…we all like what we like and love what we love – but the very last thing you’d ever want is someone out there to just not care about what they heard one way or the other and feel nothing towards it whatsoever – that would be THE WORST thing to experience, and I don’t think Stray Tablet will ever have to worry about that scenario at all. I’ll admit – I listen to “Trash Mountain Man,” and I see how many other Stray Tablet songs are out there…and this cut ended up in this list of seven tracks I’ve got here on my playlist labeled as the “best tracks by Stray Tablet” – and yeah…I find that a bit hard to believe in this particular scenario. I’ve clearly made no bones about my own personal penchant for the strange oddities like this in music…but with “Trash Mountain Man,” I’ll fully admit, even I’m perplexed to the nth degree about how a song like this one could end up in a list of Stray Tablet’s BEST. But I’ll tell ya what I’m not folks…I’m not indifferent – so just like I was tellin’ ya, any genuine reaction is much better. It ain’t my complete favorite of the bunch, but it’s also under two minutes in total length – and I’ll once again advocate on behalf of the inherent uniqueness of Stray Tablet as a result. Sure it might not be in my top seven out of the seven songs I’ve got here from this project – but I will absolutely REMEMBER it.
“Smart Zombie” proved to be an extremely pivotal track in terms of my own personal opinion on the music of Stray Tablet – this is the cut that basically opened the door for me…my gateway into it all. Not the track I listened to first, but the track that made it possible to appreciate the fact that there was a lot more going on in this project than just the odd poetry & vocals…there’s truly a cleverness underneath the surface…and an understanding of the craft of making music that can’t really be missed. We’ve all heard that age old adage, “you’ve gotta learn how to walk before you can run” right? Well…it’s like we simply jumped into the middle of the story here…that’s what “Smart Zombie” proved to me. At some point in time, Stray Tablet already learned how to walk…and probably got bored of how normal it was – and so here we are, years later, and the dude’s running things differently now, on purpose. I listen to a track like “Smart Zombie” and all the clever stuff happening in the way it’s played, the way it’s recorded, and in layers like the whispered vocals of the main hook…and I dunno – call ME the crazy one, but this is the track that made me realize the person or persons making this music have been in full control the entire time. Do I need another love-song? Does the world NEED another song about chicks & cars? I honestly don’t think that it does…and as bizarre as a track like “Smart Zombie” may still be on a fundamental level – this STANDS OUT in a way that can’t be ignored, and once again, no one will be anything close to indifferent about it. I have already forgotten half of what I listened to over the past week I’m sure – but I’m tellin’ ya folks…thanks to tracks like “Smart Zombie” I will never, ever forget this experience of listening to Stray Tablet, what the music was like, or the name attached to it all. Blazing your own trail has immense benefits…and it’s up to us as listeners to discover whether we can follow it.
Once I got to “Gutter World,” I felt like I was listening to Stray Tablet in a much different way than when I first began…that’s the effect of time & repetition. It doesn’t mean I expect people to ‘get’ this anymore than I did before – but like many things we listen to, foods we eat, or folks we meet – experience plays a huge role in how willingly we accept it all – make sense? Thought I will admit…I do think that there’s a more accessible vibe in the music to be found here…more tangible hooks in both the music AND the vocals overall for the people out there to hang onto…there could be an argument made that “Gutter World” really just IS a better song, and I’m not sure I’d fight anyone on that if that’s how they felt about it. I think there’s fantastic stuff happening in the guitars of this tune…I think the main melody in the music is pretty much superb…I think the words are as spectacular as they are ACCURATE…I think the layers of sound, as disjointed as they might appear at times, really stack up to something uniquely special. Alright…yep…okay…I’m convinced and I’ll just say it – I think “Gutter World” is my favorite cut by Stray Tablet so far, and I’d be taking a good long look at what makes this track work if I was a part of this project…or band…I’m uhh…still not exactly sure WHAT Stray Tablet is or what/who creates it all. As always, I just know what I like…and from sentiment to sound, “Gutter World” has tons of that good stuff I dig on. Like…c’mon y’all – you tellin’ me you can resist the guitar tones around the ninety second mark? Because I know I can’t! That’s probably my favorite moment in any of these tunes…though I’ll also admit that a minute later on down the road when everything snaps together rivals that spot closely.
“Breaking The Code” is also another extremely badass track by every conceivable definition, and to me, was probably the clearest example of the pathway forward for a strange project like Stray Tablet. This is where that line in the sand has been crossed with confidence, and we’re essentially in a Spoken Word track that doesn’t purport to be anything else. It’s interesting to the ears, it’s lively, it’s unique – it’s still ODD because that IS what Stray Tablet does so very, very well…but this is the extremely enticing version of what unpredictable sounds like. Brilliant guitar tones once again, stellar bass, the main spoken word is super strong, the lyrics are freakin’ excellent in this track too – AND…of all things, it’s when the voice we know the most chimes in with the background vocals that I get the most excited about “Breaking The Code,” even with all the other new awesomeness goin’ on. Every single time I hear the word “NICE” come up in this track, it brings a MASSIVE grin to my face…because it IS “NICE” – heck, it’s even NICER than “NICE” – it might even be the NICEST moment of them all! There’s such texture in the vocals in that moment that I could never get enough of it…but that is also true of the music in this track overall. Perhaps a better use of space leads Stray Tablet to victory here as well…”Breaking The Code” really seems to glide along effortlessly while still being impressively unique, complex, and outright intricate. Not only does it have all that going for it – but it is ALSO remarkably accessible! Whether that’s because of the cleverness in the composition & the way it’s played, or because the vocals on this cut are so damn compelling…one way or the other, “Breaking The Code” will deservedly EARN your attention because it’s undeniably entertaining, and equally memorable. I told y’all from the get-go…there’s SOMETHING HERE, even if I don’t know WHAT it is…Stray Tablet is the kind of strange uniqueness our music scene wouldn’t be the same without – and the music you’ll find will have you feeling anything BUT indifferent.
Find out more about Stray Tablet from the official website at: https://straytablet.com
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