My first impression upon hearing Los Angeles native Steph Thompson, recorded as her musical character Steffalo, was filled with both daze and awe. My lingering impression after wholly listening to her album Would You Stay is analogous to imagining that your heart was on the cusp of exiting a seemingly endless stasis. You’re existing somehow and someplace, and for some reason it’s still okay.
Would You Stay is Steffaloo’s second full-length album. After self-releasing her debut album Meet Me in Montauk, she signed with Mush Records, which presented her with numerous creative and collaborative opportunities (with Sun Glitters and Teen Daze being among artists and producers whom she’s worked with). The results show further exploration and experimentation with her voice, vision and sound, all of which are very evident on this latest musical effort.
Would You Stay is confident and deliberate. The opening eponymous title track is heartbreaking, transporting listeners to that similar moment in everyone’s life where love, regret and loss became one genuinely identical feeling. The lyrics “You should stay” repeat in an insistent manner, almost like a haunting chorale cry of love’s lost battles.
Steffaloo’s bare bedroom pop style adds much to the emotional turbulence that shudders throughout the album. Sadness is amplified, not eased on “I’m Sorry,” a whirlwind of bad dreams that can’t stop being replayed over and over again. The thinnest ray of light couldn’t possibly penetrate the thick dark clouds on “Rainy Fingers,” foreshadowing the inevitable, miserable failures in “Fight & Flail.”
There is quite a bit of musical variety on the album. Steffaloo moves effortlessly through dreamy pop (“So I’ll Go”) to dreamy folk (“Oh No, Oh Dear”) to the ephemeral “My Heart Beats,” which I couldn’t help but compare to Swedish singer-songwriter Anna Ternheim.
If you’ve never heard Steffaloo’s music, chances are that you’ve felt what she sings about in her music. Even after the songs cease, the raw melancholy will no doubt linger.