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Stewart
Kicks
(self-released)
www.stewarttheband.com


Any time you stick the word "pop" in a discussion of musical styles, some automatic preconceived notions start forming. No matter if you're Pop Rock, Pop Punk or even just good ol' fashioned, plain and simple Pop, you're still going to have a level to live up to. The level that I speak of refers to the energy of course. If a member of your audience falls asleep, off comes the label, quick and painless. So when newcomers Stewart started their journey with the label Pop Rock, thoughts drifted to times of teenage chaos and nights powered by Red Bull.

Their recent release Kicks has nearly 30 minutes of tempos that are sure to raise your heart rate. The first selection "Dance With Me" has got the craziest tempos out of the whole lot. Seriously, I can't even attempt to review it, as my mind can't slow down enough to break it apart. Moving on, "Ride The Wave" is a good Pop Rock song like The Donnas made so popular. And it's not just because the lead vocals are of the female persuasion, rather it's because those vocals take the instrumental elements to a different level of euphoria. The anger pushes out strong through lead guitar and heavy percussion, while the soft vocals bring it all back down a bit. In the end you're not really sure whether to be furious with someone or inexplicably happy. Now "Goodbye" finally takes us to the solid Rock side of things. The main emphasis is set on [the] strong roles that both guitars have; with these two on point it's hard to hear anything else. They do a nice little finger dance along the strings at pivotal moments and almost force a raw nature out of those previously soft vocals. And almost poetically, the song ends with the lyrics "Goodbye, goodbye" - slightly corny, but oddly works.

An unexpected turn comes in at #5 with the song "Gone". So quiet and delicate, each member is barely there. A basic cymbal beat and a simple guitar progression all keep time with the gentle words. For the last 50 seconds it's as though someone found the volume knob and turned it to 80. An additional voice adds to the angry harmonies and some distorted notes come from what was thought of to be a guitar. Everything does eventually quiet back down at the end, however manages to confuse once again. Are we falling asleep to a lullaby or plotting revenge?

The last two songs, put together, total one average length song. Coming in at roughly 1:50 each, it's as though they wrote the first one, became unsatisfied with how it was sounding and adjusted for the second. This makes much more sense when you see the titles: "Who We Are" and "Who We Are (Dance Remix)". The first is only a guitar and some words. That guitar does nothing more than the same four notes over and over again. You won't get much from the song, but then again perhaps you're not meant to. Once the focus turns to the latter song, it's becomes pretty easy to figure out where a dance remix is going to go. And a dance remix it definitely is, straight from the '70s. Our friends the four notes are on a trippy ride now and accompanied by a few synths. A definite groove is mixed throughout, which made this a fun number with which to end the album.

-Rachel Fredrickson

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