27 Nov 2020
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Stateside Heroes - Album Review: Echoes and Answers

19 Nov 2019 // A review by Jamie Denton

Stateside Heroes is the neo-soul/hip-hop/downbeat project of drummer, percussionist, multi-instrumentalist, vocalist, music-scholar, and producer Tom Pierard (Strike, Amygdala) and second-vocalist Cleavelin Manaena-Cook. Released slightly earlier in 2019, their debut album Echoes and Answers feels tailor-made for the forthcoming Kiwi summer.

Perhaps due to having an extensive drum/percussion background himself, Tom Pierard’s production of the beats shows a true sensitivity to, and understanding of, the power that subtle dynamic shifts in this area can have. The result of careful writing, production, mixing and mastering, the beats sound and feel fantastic, vibrant and upfront without being overbearing. That is not to say that the over instruments, including vocals, don’t sound good. Quite the opposite! Sonically, this album sounds great, but those drums…. Oh, so, so good!

Kicking off with a strong vocal delivery over long, sustained organ chords, album opener These Walls takes a mere 20-odd seconds to bring in the big, hip-hop inspired beats that carry much of the album. Coupled with a funky, deep, thumping bass and crisp, clean guitar punctuating the track, the sonic landscape of These Walls is a solid, tight, interesting bedrock for the soulful, emotive, and effortless vocals to play within. The ending of the track, which sees an incredibly short, repeating guitar motif is a fantastic choice, given just enough time—but not too much—to be effective, and interesting without being over-done. A very solid, and ambitious opening track.

Nestled in the middle of Echoes and Answers is the intriguing, experimental, percussion-driven Intro-Mission. An instrumental showcase of intricate drummer/percussion, the first 30-odd seconds of this track are a testament to the strong percussive elements of this album. While further instrumentation is brought in mid-track, it is still the beats that dominate this track. It does seem a strange decision to place this track (with its long, slow fade-in and fade-out) in the middle of the album, however, this may be a deliberate call back to a time where physical media (e.g. vinyl/cassettes, etc.) had sides to turn over and the inclusion of such intermission-style tracks was more commonplace. Either way, it’s a cool track and makes for a nice change of pace between the neo-soul of The Once-Over (immediately before it) and Hey Hey It’s a New Day (immediately after).

Other highlights (for me) include the alternative-rap/hip-hop Decent Money (which is reminiscent of the 'The Book/Let The Children Die-era' work of Canadian rapper D-sisive), jazz-inspired, blue-eyed soul stunner The Once-Over, and the dreamy, laid-back chill vibes of album closer Steam Dreamin. I have a strong feeling that tracks from this album will be the soundtrack to many summer BBQ’s and backyard games of cricket/touch.

Rating: ( 5 / 5 )
 

About Stateside Heroes

Stateside Heroes is Drummer/Producer Tom Pierard's neo-soul side project, and incorporates Cleavelin's and his own vocals with live and electronic instruments.




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