The Stollers – Stationary Sun
The Stollers are a brotherly pair from New York but their sound is an ethnic melting pot that scoots down to the streets of Nashville, visits the scenic hills of Ireland and even goes for a world music flair that’s tapped into organic, natural instrumentation devoid of techno beats and faux electronics. A Celtic, highland saxophone intro flows into a tributary of ever-flowing saccharine guitar strum with gutsy vocal harmonies making diligent use of vibrato as electric piano paints a vast depth onto the band’s detailed musical canvas. The powerfully original songwriting will shoot an arrow right through your heart.
“Only a Penny” hits the streets of Dodge City with tumbleweed kicking guitar licks that are full of electric southern rock scorch and tuneful, country n’ western acoustic gold mining. The piano playfully digs into a ragtime sonata leaving plenty of room for punchy bass grooves to dig in deep behind the pocket drum strikes. Dwelling in a pagan forest of lush folk and traipsing its way across the English countryside, “Open your Eyes” has a sparkling ray of sunlit guitar driving its main message with flute and a female chorale making this song sound like the nice version of pagan music heard in The Wicker Man. “Loredana” melds hand percussion with a standard kit to create a funky, hunky tribal beat where the bass licks are heavy on the soul and the guitars jangle with melodic jazz-funk fusion playing. The Stollers’ vocals are a particular highlight here as they grasp their vocal chords around smoky melodies that fit perfectly against the backdrop of crying electric guitars and super melodic lead licks. It’s one of the album’s best songs and it sounds like something Phil Lynott would have wrote if his songwriting came from a slightly different pace. When you least expect it the pace picks up with a hard n’ heady drum beat that coerces the bass line into a feral groove that matches the guitars’ sizzle n’ burning boil.
Greasy country swagger and plucky electric/acoustic interplay give “You can come home (with me)” a nice middle-ground between standard country fare and more energetic southern rock. The pianos and keys sprinkle hot sauce onto the mix, giving the guitars the necessary shove to hit some fiery electric parts as well as some gorgeous flamenco playing that lends the tune a signature like any other. “Culture War” is a raucous, rowdy hellraising bar anthem that’s pissed off as hell as a cacophony of saxophones, raging electric guitars, bloated bass lines, battle-hardened drums and shouting vocals make a musical call to arms. This is pretty much a 70s era English punk song done up in an entirely new coat of paint. Trippy acoustics rule the day on the plaintive “Between the Sun and the Moon” which lyrically describes a romantic relationship between the light of dark and the light of day. It’s an emotional tune with sullen slide guitars, uplifting acoustics and a graceful vocal performance from Stoller.
Quaking with a rumba/samba percussive beat “Food in the Morning Blues” the Stollers’ vocals range from soaring falsetto to chunky blues while keys wails, guitars lick cleanly and the cello holds down a dark foundation. The mix gets loud whenever the saxophone comes into play with a complex, technically sound jazz melody that combines perfectly with the sweltering multi-instrumentation. A female vocal choir is employed to round out the Stollers’ thickly delivered, passionate limerick. “Without your Love” pounds and slams like a 70s hard rock tune yet spreads its wings into graceful country skies and acoustic folk influences that make for a varied listening experience that is neither too tough nor too limp-wristed. The hard riffs, well-developed leads and lucid piano interludes keep this one charging dead ahead and reminds me of Horslips’ alternately rough and melodic work on the classic Aliens album. With so much steam preceding the rest of the record, the album slows to a crawl with a trifecta of closing ballads that sap the energy with no real memorable hooks or explosions of sound. Sure the songwriting is pretty and the vocals are nice but “Song for Ann” pretty much relies on a singular progression for the entirety of its playtime and “The Two Julians” attempts to step things up to an Irish jig, it never achieves its full possibilities, leaving only the ambient acoustic/piano closer “Water Wheel” to lure the listener into an otherworldly realm where every dream is possible.
Despite a few weak links The Stollers rarely falter on Stationary Sun’s twelve mostly excellent tracks. These seasoned veterans of the music world should be a lot bigger than they are but in the arena of the modern music world they have plenty of underground success thanks to a loyal fan base and a lengthy career. Stationary Sun is worthy of many dedicated listens and should be a true treasure for fans of emotional, vintage playing.
9 out of 10 stars.