About a year ago, I had the privilege of interacting with Sunstack Jones – an indie band that hail from Northern England (Liverpool and Blackburn). Their 2013 single You Can Help Me Out was one of my anthems for the summer of ’13, its Britpop-ish vibe perfectly aligning with what I was feeling at the time. The band promised a 2nd record coming soon, and we got the 1st taste of the new record in Spring of 2014. Bet I Could offered up a dreamy slice of melancholy that never felt sad. A perfect introduction to the new record, Roam.
Sophomore records are a curious thing – often, bands will have a lifetime to write their 1st record. Practice, hammering out chords – it leads to the best possible representation of what a band can do. Once the band ends promotional duties for that record, the arduous process of coming up with a follow-up begins. Many bands have fallen flat on their faces, whilst others have gone on to greater things (I can think of dozens of examples from several genres of music). How do Sunstack Jones….um….stack up? Fortunately, the band has delivered a 2nd record that betters their debut in every way, building on the band’s many strengths. Roam calls to mind bits of Britpop, early 90’s indie (Riverside, The Ocean Blue), and throws in some Americana influences for good measure. The cover art really grabs the listener’s attention, dark clouds inviting the listener to explore the world of Sunstack Jones.
Library kicks off the album in winning style, a summery vibe permeating the tune. The tune is mixed so that the vox blend in with the instruments, reminding me of early R.E.M. The guitars weave in and out of the mix, screaming 60’s psychedelic. At just over 3 minutes, it is a perfect opening track. Bet I Could follows, and it fits well within the album context – hopeful, yet full of melancholy. I love the urgency in the vocals leading up to the chorus “tell me why…..tell me why….”. Woah Woah Woe sounds like the perfect country music song you’ve never heard, and it lives up to the title. Vocals remind me of Mojave 3, and the guitar work is stellar. A sense of resignation, a sigh of regret. A trippy, sad song that is indebted to alt-country but wouldn’t sound out-of-place on an early 70’s CSN&Y album. Last summer’s single, You Can Help Me Out also works within the album format, and is a clear highlight. I reviewed it last summer, but I’ll say it again – this is a stunning song that reminds me of The Bluetones from the golden era of Britpop. January Skies closes the record on a high note, a rollicking bass lick anchoring the tune, complimented by vocals drenched in echo. It harkens back to that time when indie wasn’t alternative and you had to place a special order for an album by The Ocean Blue or Riverside. Perfect.
You can download the record from all major digital outlets or pick up the limited edition vinyl from the band’s website. All of the vinyl orders come with a free download code, so that’s what I call a deal. This record has been on repeat since I was given a copy in the spring, and it’s one that I highly recommend.
Verdict: Roam (If You Want To)
For Fans of: Mojave 3, Riverside, The Ocean Blue, The Boo Radleys, Cast, The Bluetones
- Bet I Could
- If I Could Only Find A Way
- Drag Sail
- Circular Sun
- Woah Woah Woe
- You Can Help Me Out
- Whole Lot More
- Whether Or Not
- January Skies