Stephaniesid started out five years ago as a somewhat dark and bittersweet piano bar duo. They were comprised of Stephanie Morgan on vocals and Chuck Lichtenberger on, yep, you guessed, piano.
Since those early days they have gone from strength to strength, fleshed out to a full band, moved to the mountains of Asheville, North Carolina, won best Indie band for the area for three consecutive years, and released their third album, Warm People.
As much as the Internet seems to be completely dominating every waking moment of most people’s lives, sometimes in a negative way, it does have many great redeeming features. One of those is that here I am, sitting staring at my keyboard in France, with instant access to some excellent music.
Dare I say in days gone by I probably would never have heard of Stephaniesid and a host of other bands. Now they can pump out the sounds via the 'net far and wide. So here I am, hungrily listening to music from a band that lives up in those far away mountains.
Having grown into a full band, their sound has evolved to include not only Stephanie’s vocals and snyth, and Chuck’s keys, but also Tim Haney’s drums, and Michael Libramento’s guitar, bass, and Hammond.They also added the extra texture of Matthew Richmond’s vibraphone and the brass of Jar-e.
The result is a wave of dream-pop tracks — some hypnotic, some contagious — and most with a compelling and endearingly quirky slant. Having also heard their impressive previous album, Grus Americanus, it is clear this is a band with a fast developing style. Moving away from the atmospherics of the previous album, Warm People is how it sounds in the title.
At times the band sound joyfully immersed in the act of creation. There is a sense of immediacy, which is always a winner for me, as though there wasn’t a lot of polishing going on, allowing the band’s spirit to radiate out. The process of going into the studio clearly hasn’t dulled, and instead there is a youthful sense of wonder and awe at putting down some exciting sounds and getting them out into the big wide world.
On hearing it I can easily imagine that the Warm People title tells us something about the vibe surrounding the album. The splashes of colour created by the brass, hypnotic melodies and songwriting complete the picture. Warm People is warm music made by those very same warm people.
I guess it is almost impossible to write a review of this band without mentioning Bjork, and yes I just have. It has to be done because there is definitely something heroically Icelandic going down here within nicely veiled layers created by the now developing Stephaniesid sound. No wonder this band has been labeled the ‘sleeper act’ of last years Bonnaroo Festival.
Well sleep no more because this album should achieve the breakthrough that they deserve. There is plenty to point towards. The clever lyrics of “Mission From God” are a head and shoulders standout. Stephanie’s voice has never been better.
The title track itself, which closes the album, trips along wrapped within compellingly dark lyrics akin to a nervous breakdown to music. "I got a plan", sings Stephanie sweetly before adding, worryingly, "I’ll build a fire, to warm, and they will see it from space, and they will know what we got. We got warm people".
Meanwhile, “Hello From The South” gives an early indication of the quality that this band can serve up. The multi-layered opener “Fore” revives those well worn Icelandic comparisons again with an intriguing and cleverly building track. “The Weakling” is anything but.
"Drinking At A Party” is a track guaranteed to get inside your head. It is further enriched by the line, "The happiest people you know got one change of clothes and anything goes". “Bullet Train” breezes in like someone has opened a window in the studio where the album was made. There’s a real joyful belief here that is irresistibly infectious.
“Cannot Afford You” uses that brass superbly while the opening of “Bones” is stripped right down to excellent effect. Then there is “Big Grey Peepers,” a track that would lift the spirits of the greyest of people.
I hope the next time I trip across Stephaniesid it is to report that this was what many expect it to be – the proverbial breakthrough album. The best thing to do, of course, is to have a listen at their Myspace page, or you can catch one of the dates as the band tours the East Coast of the States this summer.Powered by Sidelines