This feature has a bit of a preface, so if you’d like to skip down to the meat of the review, start reading below the line.
I was sent Stuedabakerbrown’s 2010 full-length, alternative rock album a few weeks ago. Like other submissions, I gave the album a few spins before deciding to review it – as it would be a disservice to readers to positively review everything that’s beamed my way. It would also kill my credibility as a reviewer, but that’s another issue.
I try to stay as objective as possible, without giving in to the fancy stories and marketing gimmicks associated with artists’ careers. Before reviewing any material, I ask myself whether the I would still enjoy the album without knowing that the musicians utilized dollar bin vinyl samples or that the ideas for an album arose from a frigid trip across Siberia. Essentially, I want to keep the ‘indie cred’ of Bandcamp’s Best alive and well, while focusing on only the artists’ strengths.
After realizing (in total isolation) that Strangers We’ll Become would be a good fit for BB, I decided to do a little digging. “Good,” I thought, “their website looks like a run-of-the-mill indie band’s site. There’s probably a bit of fodder on here to start the review, after that I’ll just stick with the content…” Lo and behold, after a bit more digging, I found that they’ve had music featured on the Jersey Shore and the Real World.
“Welp, there goes that album.” I thought in the back of my mind. “How could I review something with a straight face that’s been blemished by MTV? And of all shows, the Jersey Shore???”
As you can see, clearer heads prevailed. In an epic battle of wits, my pragmatic side heroically vanquished my evil indie-hipster side for denouncing the band for the success they’ve achieved. They’ve made it further than the majority of independent bands even dream of going, and that’s a fact that should be celebrated. You can read more about their growing list of successes here.
Innovative alternative rock music is hard to find. Since the beginnings of the genre in the 1990s, a band’s ability to distinguish themselves armed with only the classic electric guitar, bass and drums combination has only gotten more difficult. Given the over-saturation of the genre, a slick combination of style, technical prowess, and ability to remain true to your roots is a prerequisite.
Enter Stuedabakerbrown, a band with those chops and then some. I can honestly say that every song of this 11-track release is well worth a listen, and is thoroughly enjoyable to boot. Because of the natural flow of Strangers We’ll Become, I’m not going to get into the specifics on every track. What I will talk about is the band’s ability to wrap the listener in well-conceived, expertly produced rock music.
What struck me in my initial few listens was the breadth of sound that Stuedabakerbrown is able to project. The guitars are loud and full, bass is quick and complementary, drums are snappy and technical, and the vocals are pleasant and powerful. While it might be easy to fall into a rut with only four distinct instruments, the band sounds fresh and tightly tuned – a trait that continues to work its magic well beyond one specific song.
While some of the album’s song structures may seem a bit contrived in this age of over-produced radio-rock drivel, I’ve found that many have an endearing quality that sticks with them well after the first few listens. Much of that quality stems from the band’s ability to take listener expectations and expand upon them. For example, specifically on the track “We Breathe In”, I expected to hear the song progress in a certain direction, while the band intelligently took it in another. They could have easily continued their addictive verse into an over the top chorus that repeats itself into oblivion, but they chose not to. This shows that the band isn’t interested in single listens from brain-dead fans, but repeated ones from intelligent listeners.
The heyday of alternative rock may have passed us by, but that doesn’t mean that bands have forgotten how to make a smart record. There’s still some fresh alternative music to be heard, and Stuedabakerbrown is a band with the chops to put it together for us. Maybe you’ve already heard them on MTV, or opening up for Say Anything. Either way, this is a band whose successes should be celebrated, as they deserve each and every one of them.
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Take a listen to my home-brewed instrumental/electronic/indie album
"Where Were We When" and download it for as many coconuts as you can spare.
Coconuts are delicious, though their milk tastes like pond water.