Mood Ring is the debut EP from Hartford, CT’s Dylan Healy, recording under the nom de plume Stadia. Healy wrote the five songs, and sings and plays guitar throughout. To fill out the sound, Healy enlisted a strong roster of collaborators: Daniel Carr (drums/bass), Dave Bugnacki (drums/bass), Justin Holden (synths), Ashly LaRosa (backing vocals) and Jack Riley (piano).
Healy chose the name Stadia based on his Dungeons and Dragons character (“don’t judge,” he tells us), and that Dungeons and Dragons influence shows in some of the lyrics. Portals, spawning and “obsidian spells” appear across “Dumb Birds” and “Tiny You in a Prism.” (And when’s the last time you heard the word “parallax”? It’s in here too!) That said, the lyrics are deeper than that: he memorializes his great-aunt’s murder (“Dumb Birds”), and works through different aspects of friendship. To his credit, the imagery in the lyrics is indirect enough that we as listeners are able to form our own connections with the songs.
And the words sound great as Healy sings them against the music. The soundscape builds around nylon-string guitar and the vocals. Holden’s keyboards add depth and some spacey effects, and the bass playing is vibrant and melodic. There’s nothing jarring here, just a smooth, languid wash that fits the mood, or the Mood Ring.
Each of the five tracks works well with each having its own arc. “Dumb Birds” builds well, adding extra vocals and keyboards as the track plays out. In a nice touch, Stadia uses instrumental tones to offer sonic coherence between the songs, particularly through the keyboards. A highlight is “Tiny You in a Prism” which is influenced by the Brazilian music Healy heard growing up. It starts off with a nice 6/8 jazz feel, offers a fine piano solo from Riley, and leads to a cool, shifting-meter ending.
“Trellis” was my favorite track. It’s a modern-rock feel, where the keyboards recall classic mid-‘80s Oberheim tones and the melody is poppy and fun. The start-stop ending works too. Like all the other tracks, the arrangement is tight: every section matters, and Stadia doesn’t natter on just to fill space.
Well done, Stadia. I wouldn’t change a thing, and look forward to your next disc.
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