REVIEW: Stoney – ‘More Than Animals’

stoney

Artist: Stoney
Album: More Than Animals
Genre: Indie, Rock, New Wave

Aptly labeled, pop-rock has always been a hot genre, but it seems that in the past decade, it’s done nothing but grow tremendously with slews of stock acts with similar sounds, very few of which truly bring anything refreshing to the table. I guess this could likely be said for nearly any genre, but when I read Stoney’s brief bio along with the “pop-rock” and “indie” tags attached, I was admittedly less than excited to delve into his forthcoming release. To my surprise and eventual elation, however, More Than Animals is a massive 12-track foray into pop-rock’s various sub-genres, but with fresh qualities that steer clear of the mundane and make for a much-needed reboot.

“Defiantly Loved” is the album’s third track, but the first to truly have a resonating effect on me. That’s not to say that the first two tracks don’t kick the album off with an excellent start, but they’re followed by a beautifully crafted song with perfectly layered instrumentation and vocals that simply couldn’t fit any better. There’s a very eerie element frolicking throughout its four and a half minutes that evokes a slew of imagery that could easily include gorgeous English landscapes and old stone structures.

“We Belonged” brings it down a notch into more mellow moments, but never less grandiose than More Than Animals‘ biggest walls of sound. The vocal layers arranged in the gothic-esque “Devil On My Back” are further indicants of Stoney’s vision for structure and the overall writing found throughout the album. It’s choices such as this that make More Than Animals stand out in an ample crowd of shopworn pop-rock releases. Stoney’s influences shine through in everything from David Bowie to The Kinks but as a UK-uproot currently living in the most American land of Austin, TX, the ostensible dichotomy between the two cultures’ sound meld flawlessly into alternative pop-rock compositions led by slightly-accented vocal arrangements that anyone can enjoy. There’s a driving force that exudes from the effort, predominately in tracks such as “The Score” and “House Of Mirrors” that build endlessly, pushing you further and further to the edge of your seat, but never giving you the final shove before transitioning into the succeeding track where you find yourself reliving those very motions.

“Bedpost” is a particular standout with an emotion only matched by those likely idolized by Stoney and the world over; the very musicians that have influenced the direction he has taken his sound. The song which spawned the album’s title, with a big chorus reminiscent of Band Of Horses favorites, a piano-driven melody, and further driving percussion, “Bedpost” is irrefutably powerful and resonant. I dare say it’s the best song of 2014 thus far. Touching on an all-familiar scene and the heartache of unrequited love, Stoney admits and wonders, “I’ll be sleeping as you creep out of the door. I won’t be woken, won’t be spoken of no more. And will you even mark the notch into your bedpost, darling? Or add me to the tally on your wall? When you leave before your scent has left my starving skin, and I carve you on my heart just like a fool. Here’s to you.”

“Albatross” is probably the album’s most uncomplicated and straight-forward cut but it works as well, if not better, than the more intricate pieces on More Than Animals. This song is simply begging to contribute to a film’s soundtrack. It starts out as a beautiful, mellow, folky tune as it builds into a cinematic sprawl of a climax with French horns and swelling violins only adding to its beauty. This song in particular is one that makes Mark Stoney’s multi-instrumental prowess all the more impressive as well as the talents of whom he selects to aid in his creations. As I wish that tracks such as this, “Bedpost,” and “Defiantly Loved” were more the focused direction this album would have taken, tracks like the follow-up to “Albatross,” “Cock Of The Walk,” and the previously mentioned “Devil On My Back,” tend to break up the flow of the more graceful moments which can be almost jarring after enduring something as delicate and ethereal as “Albatross.”

As you wander further into the album and find yourself lost in the tender ambience of “Wanderlust,” you almost begin to wish that the album’s more lulling moments were released as a 5-track EP preceding a more upbeat 7-track (or more) More Than Animals. That EP could be a 9.5/10 easily. The diversity present is great but it’s almost too diverse to work entirely as a whole. This is further evident as you approach the final track, “Round Here,” that almost reminds me more of Rehab or Everlast with a kind of rock/hip-hop sound. It’s actually a really fun song but unfortunately feels out of place in the mix of More Than Animals, even after experiencing “Devil On My Back” and “Cock Of The Walk.”

Stoney’s been making a name for himself in the UK for years, but he has a lot of work to do here in the states to further develop his brand. More Than Animals is the release to do just that as his impressively crafted compositions can affect fans of a wide range of acts in similar sub-genres, including Beck, Modest Mouse, David Bowie, The Shins, Radical Face, Los Campesinos!, and Bright Eyes. Next to Sianvar and Broken Bells’ January releases, Stoney has delivered what is guaranteed to be one of 2014’s first promising albums of note that has the potential to hold up throughout the remainder of the year. Even despite its minor problems with cohesion, More Than Animals has a lot to offer pop-rock and its fans as well as being evident of what we can look forward to in the future from Mark Stoney.

Oh and, Stoney, if you’re reading this, please press this album on vinyl. Thank you.

SCORE: 8/10
Review written by: Brian Lion — (Follow him on Twitter)

Brian Leak

Editor-In-Chief. King of forgetting drinks in the freezer. Pop culture pack rat. X-Phile. LOST apologist.
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