21 Apr 2021
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Stretch - Album Review: Our Dreams Are Changing

30 Sep 2020 // A review by Mike Alexander

Anthony Stretch’s debut album Bury All Horses was one of the most poignant, lyrically honest and captivating albums of 2017. It was a 'dark horse', so to speak, forged in loss and loneliness, and at times a sense of anguish as he contemplated the direction of his life beyond the clouds that seemed as if they would never lift. They did though and it was as if the metaphorical light was able to shine through once he was willing to walk through the shadows.

From the point of view of a listener, the journey was a cathartic one, a mirror into your own personal Pandora’s box of torments and fears, lightened through the knowledge that you were not alone that a kindred spirit had found a way to rise above the battleground. His breakdown became a breakthrough.

As the title of his follow-up album suggests, Stretch’s perspective is less self-conscious and more open ended. Having had to turn from the outside to confront what was within, he’s now found enough resilience and a more self-assured sense of wellbeing to look at life from inside-out.

There are painful moments but these are the natural reaction to the external circumstances of his life. They inform it but do not conform it. His father, aunt and another family member died within a few weeks of each other. The gently realised Lonely Star and haunting House Full of Ghosts both mourn those losses but while the grief is palpable in his vocal phrasing, the fond and meaningful memories that they also conjure up turn the tide of sorrow into one of gratitude for the love and affection that was shared and will continue to endure.

There are moments informed by the uncertainty and challenges of the times we live in. Hold Fast Hold True, cha cha’s to a lonesome and intent lyric line that conjures up memories of Roy Orbison, while The Turning is woven from an aching cello melody and hushed wordless vocals.

There are moments of raw beauty with the panoramic sweep of the opening track Last Call For The Road shimmering and glistening with bittersweetness.

There’s also a significant change in the way Stretch has dressed his songs this time around. Noted producer and multi-instrumentalist Wayne Bell is again at the helm and adding his own subtle nuances along with Olly Harmer on piano and Hammond organ, bassist Dan Devcich and Puawai Te Hunia, who adds some spare but poignant backing vocals. The fire in the flames though is Paula Sugden, who caresses and entices exquisitely soulful notes out of her 300 year old cello. It’s an instrument that gives Stretch’s simple but sturdy songs an added richness and depth that you just can’t get from guitar, bass and drums. Apparently, they met in a bar in Napier. She’s certainly raised the bar here.

One of the things that continues to captivate me is Stretch’s vocal delivery. His words resonate but also linger because he probes and searches his way around a lyric as if he’s still exploring the depths of its meaning to him. It’s the musical equivalent of punctuation that leaves you with a question mark as opposed to a full stop.

If you could ever truly embody the phrase "music for our times", then Our Dreams Are Changing would be worthy of that description.

Rating: ( 5 / 5 )
 

About Stretch

"Stretch totally captivated, the voice beautiful and soulful. Immediately the place lit up, we finished on our feet, a crowd desperate for more" - BayBuzz

Stretch has a passion in his performance that sets shows alight. From dark-hearted ballads to roof-raising choruses, his songs are a bittersweet blend of Folk, Soul and Rock ’n’ Roll.


Visit the muzic.net.nz Profile for Stretch

Releases

Our Dreams Are Changing
Year: 2020
Type: Album
Bury All Horses
Year: 2017
Type: Album
Buy Online @ Mightyape
Depot Demos
Year: 2015
Type: EP

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