HD Stardom is a fairly new project for its creator Ethan Pounds. It is a solo record of sorts for Pounds who played the majority of the instruments on his first four-song release the EP Sarah & Mel. He received help by way of drums played by Da-Rell Clifton and mixing, mastering, and production credits for the EP being given to Toronto producer Dalomed.
Sarah & Mel starts with the bouncy guitar, bass and drum driven “Cannula,” the title referring to a tube which can be inserted into the body for use in the delivery of intravenous drugs among other things. In its way “Cannula” is fun and catchy and contains the hilarious reference to Keith Richards in the lyrics to the effect of “Keith Richards can’t remember sheit.”
The lyrics are what really propel Sarah & Mel. They are strange and cryptic like on the second track “Long Heart” where Pounds sings the lines, “in my chest I've got drawers/I try to organize my gore/but I’m irrational and I ignore/when the gut feel leeches in my skull.” These strange images, which Pound sings about play out as a poetic foil against the subdued heavy metal guitar riffs and the psychedelic samples which sneak in and out of “Long Heart” like a helix.
“Just Relax” is another bouncy jam, which skirts the limits of psych-pop but also has hints of ‘90s grunge metal and in my opinion is the best track on Sarah & Mel. The final track on the EP “Up on the Steps” has a bit of an Queens of the Stone Age feel to it, mostly due to the crunchy electric guitar that forges its way to the forefront along with Pounds’ vocals which contain a bit of that reverb which is found on many of Josh Homme’s vocals. “Up on the Steps” is also peppered with elements of electronica and has some pretty sweet metal guitar interludes to it.
The production value is worth singling out also on Sarah & Mel. The songs themselves are intricate enough in scope and arrangement, but after subsequent listens they become a bit stale. Though looking at Sarah & Mel from a recording standpoint reveals the instruments and vocals to be crisp, clean and definitely professional sounding, which is something rarely heard by many up and coming bands who do not spend thousands of dollars to record an album. It definitely helps the little EP to stand out amongst a sea of others I’ve heard in the past.
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