Paul Den Heyer deserves to be more widely known. He made his first splash with Fishmonkeyman in the 90’s – who’s If I’ve Told You Once was a memorable Britpop hit in the early 90’s. From there he’s played with and produced many memorable bands – two of them very dear to my heart. I’m talking about the summer drenched tunes of Sunstack Jones and John Lever’s project The Red-Sided Garter Snakes – whose two albums showcased several artists influenced and inspired by John and his work with The Chameleons and The Sun and the Moon. It was a last influx of creativity before John passed away and it left me wondering what would come next from these artists, chief among them Paul Den Heyer. I didn’t have to wait long, as Paul’s been in touch with me letting me know about his solo work and sharing snippets over the “world wide web”. And now that it is here, how does it stack up? Does it live up to everything I had hoped?
Liverpool’s Sunstack Jones have long been one of my favorite indie bands over the last 5 or 6 years. Hints of 60’s psychedelia, nods to 90’s Britpop, and meticulous attention to detail make for an engaging listen. The band operates as a collective, something that has been part of their modus operandi since day 1. Christopher Jones is on vocals / guitar joined by Richy (drums), Lorcan (guitar), Dave (vocals / guitar), and Jules (bass). The band have a number of releases to their name, all evoking nostalgia, coastal drives by sunset, and life’s regrets. The latest self titled LP takes these traits and perfects them.
Spring is in the air – finally. One of the rainiest winters on record in the Seattle area is finally showing signs of taking it’s leave. Not coincidentally, I’ve had the latest EP from Sunstack Jones on repeat for a while now, summery tunes that have me longing for warmer weather. Hailing from Northern England, I’d imagine the band suffer from the same affliction as I – a desire for the wintry rain to go away. On earlier releases I’ve been transfixed by the band’s ability to work at a convincingly high caliper whilst blending in such disparate elements as folk, pop, shoegaze, & country. Ultimately, I measure a band’s impact by their ability to transport me away from daily life and into their world – on that count, Sunstack Jones succeed wildly. Days Stand Still is the latest offering from the band and it continues their winning streak
It Ain’t Easy sounds like The Byrds meets Ocean Colour Scene and is a standout. A sing-a-long anthem, it hints at despair beneath its breezy tone. “Don’t it seem some things / They just turn to nothing / And I’m barely coping / It ain’t easy”. It is the perfect choice for the single from this release. Days Stand Still has an intricacy to its guitar parts that reminds me of Simon & Garfunkel or Kings of Convenience. Add in those layered harmonies and it is a tune that’ll find repeated plays. Walking in Our Sleep slides into shoegaze territory – a melodic bass line, hushed vocals, and a mix that emphasizes vibe over instrument separation. Always Something Up closes the record on an upbeat, rocking tune that wouldn’t sound out-of-place on a mid period album by The Monkees (the absolute highest praise coming from me).
You can find out more about the band and / or order records here. I highly recommend this album – it has been a soundtrack for an unusual month for me, and its summery tones are capable of providing an escape from drudgery. Keep your eyes open for the latest full length from Sunstack Jones – coming out this summer.
Verdict: Shades of Summer
For Fans of: The Monkees, Mojave 3, Neil Young, Galaxie 500, Teenage Fanclub, The Byrds
- It Ain’t Easy
- Days Stand Still
- Walking In Our Sleep
- Always Something Up
Summertime anthems are quickly becoming a tradition with North England’s Sunstack Jones. In 2013 the band released one of my favorite indie singles of that year called You Can Help Me Out. They bettered that in 2014 with a full album of anthems called Roam – Britpop infused melodies with hints of Americana. 2015 continues the tradition with the release of the Good This Time single b/w ace b-side This Can’t Keep Going On.
The title track just might be my favorite release from the band to date. Hints of shoegaze by way of The Verve shine bright on this tune – shimmering melodies, vocals evoking a dream like state. “Listen and I’ll try to talk you out / Listen get your feet back on the ground” urges vocalist Chris Jones, a ghost like voice rising out of the walls of instrumentation. This Can’t Keep Going On is every bit the equal of the A side (so, I guess tied as my favorite Sunstack Jones song). A distinct Slowdive by way of Mojave 3 vibe carries this tune. Still wandering in and out of a dream like state, there is a driving urgency on this song that makes for an engaging listen. Fuzz tone guitar riffs immediately after the chorus recall a Phil Spector wall of sound. Perfect.
Verdict: Hazy Shade of Summer
For Fans of: The Verve, Mojave 3, Slowdive, The Ocean Blue, Swervedriver
Another year gone by, another year in music to review. For me personally, it was a strange year in music. I found myself listening to unsigned / self released artists more often than some of the mainstream artists that I love so much. 2 Neil Young records – the 1st was good, if not great. The 2nd was a little too lush for my tastes. Neither appear on my year-end round-up. I looked forward to the new John Mellencamp (yes, seriously) but I came away only loving about half the record. Bruce Springsteen added Tom Morello of Rage Against the Machine to his band and the record he released didn’t disappoint me. I managed to get out to a few shows in 2014 and was blown away by Mudhoney (twice) and First Aid Kit. Speaking of First Aid Kit, their Stay Gold record grew in stature with repeated listens and should help them become a household name. So without further rambling, here are the records that I played the most in 2014. Note: these are listed randomly and I chose to focus on full length releases that were released in 2014.
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.
Sunstack Jones hail from “North of England” (members live in Liverpool & Blackburn) and say that they are composed of “always two, sometimes three but mostly four or maybe five musicians”. That includes Lorcan Moriarty on guitars (formerly of NME darlings Maupa) and Chris Jones on vocals. This 2 song single is my vote for 2013’s summertime anthem. Though the band’s name conjures up visions of an obscure Motown cool cat the tunes bring to mind pop driven Americana played to perfection. The A side is the track begging for radio play whilst the B side offers up a slice of melancholy to give you a break from singing at the top of your lungs. Both tracks are simply perfect and have me really looking forward to the bands forthcoming full length (their 2nd).