Sometimes if you just let go and not try to try so hard you end up coming out with better results than if you concentrated and tried really hard. Though there are certain types of artists and musicians who begin with a vision and push really hard until it comes to fruition, it can still be a total disaster. But if you’re a man like Phoenix Arizona’s Stu Leiter, who’s been making music for the past fifteen plus years, you just make music because you want to. Everyone and everything else be dammed. Leiter performs his variants of alternative, metal, and sometimes psych rock under the moniker Hochen. His latest record, Strays, a is a refreshing take on the various outcroppings of the rock genre and his zero pretension approach to writing songs sets the very mellow but rocking pace of Strays.
The nine track Strays opens with “Man I Am” a low-fi but groovy take on the hard rock. One thing to note right from the start are Leiter’s vocals which soft spoken but deep and bassy at the same time which creates a sort of darkness without going over the top with apocalyptic visions or other such themes of doom. Yet subtly Leiter makes you to pick up what he’s putting down, as he does on the dark and groove infested “Dead Friends,” and the darkly hypnotic “Lip Gloss.”
The first half of Strays can sound a little repetitive after a time, the slow chugs and often lulling melodies, Leister picks up the pace a bit on “In the Weeds/Strays,” and the second half of the grunge encrusted “Altered,” which contains some of Leisters best guitar work as does the back and forth from hard rock to mellow on the ethereal “No Worries,” and the balls out rock closer “From My Backyard.”
Despite its repetitive points Strays is a perfect example of technology working in the favor of the solo artist who wants to branch out from the old school singer songwriter vein and try to experiment with other forms of music. It is also a perfect example of what can come about if you just plug in and play, opting for raw emotion as opposed to working from blueprints.
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