Stingray Central is a solo project of Chicago singer/songwriter J. Stenger. After releasing Sleeping Quarters in 2017, he took a break to focus on a new band called The Darling Suns. After some time, Stenger decided he wanted to release more solo work while still playing with The Darling Suns. In the spirit of collaboration, he took the best of both worlds and featured local musicians to help achieve more of a "group" sound on his EP Green. Straying away from the quiet acoustic 2017 Sleeping Quarters the songs on Green take on a much more energetic and "modern" indie sound. Additionally, every track feature musicians Stenger has played with as parts of other bands or friends from the local scene. Each song has a slightly different flavor, playing to the strengths of the featured musicians. Influences include St. Vincent, Mac DeMarco, Father John Misty, Tame Impala and Vampire Weekend.
“Jumble” featuring Scott Reynolds on tenor sax, Dan Bretz on drums and Devon White on bass, is a funky, fuzzy guitar, upbeat and infectious number, full of energy and fun. You’ll hear a unique blend of alternative, jazz and funk. “Trying and Leaving” which features Bretz on the drums again along with Lindsay Ward on backing vocals delves into spacious rhythms with a more contemporary indie feel and an ‘80’s tinged jazz guitar.
“Fame” showcases a heavier drumbeat, dry and warm with equally meaty bass lines by White. Stenger lays it down heavy on synths which sounded like a nostalgic ’50s era roller rink feel, or maybe a 7th inning baseball game. I instantly fell in love with the guitar on “Skin (O.K.)” – in fact, I enjoyed the entire song’s structure from start to finish. I don’t know, there was just something about it that turned a light on for me, perhaps you’ll hear it too. Stenger taps into something that may make you think – why isn’t this guy on the radio or appearing on Tiny Desk Concerts on NPR or something? Nick Alonso-Emanuel helps out on bass, synth and drum programming on backup vocals.
Stingray Central’s Green – the EP which claims it’s “good music to wear a green sweater to” is nothing to brush off as far as I’m concerned. It’s a fantastic short sample of songs worthy to wear an entire rainbow of sweaters to. There are some solid arrangements and refreshing melodies here, a sure change from his 2017 release. The only bummer was that the EP wasn’t a bit longer, so I hope we can hear more from this young talent soon.
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