Laura Stevenson


Written by: MIN on 23/02/2016 20:50:20

Before totally cutting off reviews of albums released in 2015, an artist worthy of a few words is Laura Stevenson (previously the keyboardist of the American punk collective Bomb the Music Industry!). Her last album, ”Wheel”, from 2013 was an epic piece of folk-rooted indie rock largely complimented by horns and string quartets, and now she’s back, once again joined by her backing band The Cans. Stevenson’s new album is adequately and awkwardly titled ”Cocksure”; adequate due to most of the album’s song structures being a lot more concise and less sprawling than previously (aiding this switch, production duties have swapped from Kevin McMahon to Jeff Rosenstock), awkward because the lyrical content of ”Cocksure” is far from confident. The sound has been changed to a more rocking kind of happiness with hints of power-pop which disguises the emotional lyrics found beneath the surface, mostly reminiscent of The Lemonheads or Weezer’s ”Blue Album”.

The first two singles that helped promote the album prior to its release, ”Torch Song” and ”Jellyfish”, are quickly fired off as the second and third track. Both are fast and highly entertaining, but if you take a minute to stop and listen to what’s actually being sung, you discover that Laura Stevenson is far from as happy as the music initially sounds. The latter song is about wasting your life away and never leaving the house: Besides having a wonderful chorus about being down, the lyrics truly shine in the first part of the bridge that arrives towards the end of the song: ”Should I throw shade down on the sidewalk // Or should I stay inside and shine in artificial light? Surely, it’s a feeling that most people have been able to relate to at some point in their life. Throughout, Laura Stevenson’s voice sounds excellent as ever, and the song features some solid drum fills and great guitar riffs. The guitar work between the chorus and the second verse works really well as it helps emphasize the switch between the two sections, and when the track reaches the bridge the drums get especially prominent and help build momentum for a sudden break. All very nicely put within a timeframe of only two minutes and 35 seconds.

Unfortunately, not every song is quite as interesting. A very similar track, “Claustrophobe”, comes off as too repetitive in comparison to the two aforementioned singles, and a few of the quieter and slower songs, such as “Fine Print” or “Ticker Tape”, are too bland and tasteless to keep you interested. The album’s bookmarks, “Out With a Whimper” and “Tom Sawyer / You Know Where You Can Find Me” are both great cuts, though: The latter is highly reminiscent of Stevenson’s title-track off “Wheel”, and the former is the best and most delicate song on the album. It starts off with a distorted guitar riff which quickly turns slow and somber while maintaining its sound, and suddenly Laura Stevenson’s fragile vocals join in. It’s predictable, yes: As soon as you hear it, you know it’s going to get progressively louder, ultimately building up to a climax. But that shouldn’t bother you, because with its added layers of guitar, an accordion and Laura’s vocals ranging from quiet to over-the-top, it still sounds remarkable in a way that only she knows how to do.

Overall, “Cocksure” is different than Stevenson’s previous albums. It contains a lot more fast songs that keep simple song structures instead of taking the big picture into account, and honestly, it’s hurting from it. “Wheel” had an amazing cohesion and consistency, whereas this album just seems to randomly churn out tracks (with the exception of the first and last songs). But luckily, there’s still a certain quality stamp on it and honesty in whatever she does, which still keeps the album well above average. Laura Stevenson’s “Cocksure” is a gun ready to blow, but way too often it shoots off blanks. Let’s hope that the next time around, she’s traded in the musket for an automatic.


Download: Out With a Whimper, Jellyfish, Torch Song
For The Fans Of: Antarctigo Vespucci, The Lemonheads, Weezer

Release date 30.10.2015
Don Giovanni Records

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