Kevin Stewart aka The So Long Showdown describes himself as “self-taught, metalhead (but not metal writer), retro gamer, small Midwestern town victim, husband and father of two, '80s child, over-caffeinated, hypochondriac. In a nutshell, 6'3" of pure tattooed awkwardness, with glints of success and blinding supernovas of failure.” The reason I mention this is because his latest effort entitled Radio Tower starts to make sense after knowing a bit more about him. Radio Tower is a collection of 12 songs that were recorded over the last six years and they sound like 8-bit video games melded with power punk, acoustic ballads and heavy metal.
Listening to the album in its entirety is more like listening to a bunch of singles rather then a journey that has an end. This isn’t a bad thing and conceptually can work as we saw with Les Savy Fav’s Inches a couple of years back. Stewart has mainstream tendencies that can cause some concern when listening but there is enough originality here that I was able to look past them for the most part. The one thing you have to appreciate listening is how good the recording sounds. It is incredibly produced, almost over produced at times. It’s a professional sounding album that has a quality to it that a lot of indie albums lack.
The album starts with “Advisors,” which sounds like a mix between a sea shanty and a power pop ballad from the 80’s. No, I'm serious?! What’s even odder is the song works. Immediately switching gears on the second song entitled “Cellar King” which is a mish mash of video game music and heavy pop, which becomes a pretty vicious onslaught of sounds. There’s even a hip-hop breakdown in the middle of the song that somehow doesn't sound that out of place. It was clear to me at this point that Stewart didn’t give a rat’s ass about the cohesiveness of the album but it wasn’t until I heard the next song “Knock ‘Em Dead” which is primarily an acoustic ballad with some accompaniment that I realized that this guy might be the next big thing. With so much cross pollination of genres I felt like this is already becoming the norm for a lot of mainstream acts. How often do we see hip-hop artists incorporating rock elements in their songs? Or electronic artists like James Blake incorporating elements like r&b vocals into his tracks? Quite often I’d say. While Stewart may have more luck simmering down a bit and refining one style than incorporating everything under the sun, I have to admit it caught my attention. Stewart has created a genre-bending album that has its fair amount of highlights that sound professionally produced.
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