Psychedelia as a genre has many forms. The most entertaining of these forms is that slick surf rock and pop combined with a bit of the California canyon sound, like the soundtrack of a drive through the darkened California desert at night. Everything is steeped in darkness. Strange sounds often come out of nowhere and reverberate back into the darkness. The guitars are tinny and slow, the snare is and kick drum are hit intermittently and without fail there is always a tambourine that plays softly in the background, and sounds like the slow rattling of chains.
On her latest epoch project 2016 by Stephanie Brown & the Surrealistics these aforementioned musical tropes all occur but in such a perfect way that at no time does 2016 sound like a strictly genre based record. In fact one gets so lost in the esthetic cool and flow of 2016 that the record’s six songs are over before you know it. This is a rare occurrence in music. Usually there is something that jars one back into reality from time to time, but the shifts between songs here are so entrancing that once they have you, you are along for the ride.
This ride begins with “Go!” a melodically groovy surf-rock guitar melody and laid-back beat provide the foundation for Stephanie Brown to lay down her thoughtfully dark lyrics in an intriguingly raspy mezzo-soprano, which is foiled by the sweet and creamy backing vocals of Kimmy Menshek. Next comes the hauntingly beautiful “Memphis” which steps away from the surfy grooves in favor of a more minimalistic, ethereal and dark approach.
Next the strings come in as do the electric piano on “2016” which is the most sonic of all the songs on the album and showcases that Brown can step out of the shadows and belt it out when she wants to. This is a fitting lead up to a cover song Jefferson Airplane’s “Today” which is a fitting nod to a band thatStephanie Brown & the Surrealistics have clearly and wisely sought to emulate.
2016 is a beautiful record of psychedelic, gloomy and groovy pop, reminiscent of Anton Newcombe’s quieter collaborations with Tess Parks. As someone who holds this genre in the highest regard, and is always skeptical of anything new that comes my way, I was completely awed and taken by ethereal gloominess of Stephanie Brown & the Surrealistics 2016. For any fan of psychedelia 2016 should definitely be in your arsenal.
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