Louisiana alternative rock band 12 Stones have proven their resilience over the course of their 17 year career. Released July 14th, their fifth studio album Picture Perfect shows the world 12 Stones has something worth fighting for. It’s their first release in 5 years, with their newly signed label Cleopatra Records. 12 Stones is made of Paul McCoy (vocals), Eric Weaver (guitar), Sean Dunaway (drums), and David Troia (bass.) The band has always been straight forward with their lyrics while providing solid rock tunes of rebellion. Picture Perfect‘s 14-track offers a variety of angst, head banging tracks and sweet lullabies, all while holding onto something deeper beyond the surface.
The first track “The Killer” is so similar to Anthem For The Underdog‘s “Adrenaline,” it could be seen as a sequel. (Maybe?) The piece is heavy in riffs, well composed, and puts the album off to a great start. I imagine being preyed upon, the choir of vocals softly singing “Everything dies” off to my death. A favorite on the album is “Nothing To Say” and I’m unsure if it’s the irony, lyrical content, or composition (but who really needs a reason?) The bass soothes the soul as McCoy reflects on the guilt and regret of missing someone and love fading. The irony of the title is that it’s more like there’s everything left to say. It’s the feeling of having everything locked away that you’ve been holding back for too long. “I’ll take the blame / The past will remain / Will you save me from this misery / I’m trying to find where I belong.” This song holds great intensity, like the lump in your throat after a breakup, like the dried tears while you’re driving home after hearing a certain song on the radio that sends you over, or like the sinking in your chest lying awake at night replaying every moment in your head. “It feels like the world is ending.”
Have no fear, as 12 Stones twisted that pain and hurt to see the greener side of the grass with “Blessing.” The track paints the message of courage, empowerment, and taking control over your own life. “Blessing” has a haunting start with isolated vocals until the chorus blasts in, with a great build up at the end of the bridge. The crash of the cymbals are uplifting while the rhythm dances away. “Swim through the void as black as your soul / never forget you’ve lost control of me… Pain is a blessing in disguise / I shiver at the thought of you.” The band gave a sneak peek of the song on Shiprocked earlier this year (live video here) and the studio version delivered on my expectations and more.
Empowerment is one theme that remains constant throughout the album. “Voodoo Doll” is one of the raw and softer tracks on the album with vocals clear as day until the chorus moves in. There’s a bit of a country influence with a rock twang. The message is about taking control from being a victim of manipulation. A few more songs in, “Time” is a drum heavy, empowering track that assures listeners to stand strong and to seize the day. “We must keep moving before we fade into oblivion.” Another favorite off the record is grunge-rock “How Long” which presses on the issues of building false realities. “How long until we finally wake up / Living in a world we made up / How much of this is real?” This song will leave you wanting to make sure you find your own voice in this world, find the issues that matter to you, and making sure you don’t go out without a fight. “Doesn’t matter what you do if the choice is made for you.” The guitar licks on this one have me hooked.
12 Stones digs into their serious side with darker tracks that will leave you out of breath. Tear-jerker “Lerlene” is a soft, sweet lullaby to a loved one who has passed away. The beautiful tribute offers a “Freebird” (Lynyrd Skynyrd) feeling that washes away the pain. “Wake me up when it’s over / I swear I should have told her everything she has meant to me / Take me back to October when I could have told her everything she has meant to me / Goodnight my sweet Lerlene.” Warning: Grab plenty of tissues for this one. “Hello Suicide” serves as McCoy’s numbing last surrender. The acoustic track showcases a sweeter side to McCoy’s vocals, but a bittersweet realization settles in on his defeatedness as he sings, “I have nothing left to lose this time.” While it’s unfortunate this song was written in the first place, I believe it will help many who feel the same way to get through these feelings and tough times.
Quite the opposite from just the previous track, “Anthem For The Underdog” comes back to life and shows that 12 Stones isn’t ready to give up just yet. The song was previously released on the 2007 title album and fits its title to a tee. 12 Stones revamped this underrated track to re-scratch the surface and fill listeners with defiance. “We Are One” ends the album in unity with a powerful track that gets the blood pumping. I see this track being used in locker rooms before games, on a workout playlist, or in any rocker’s jam session. “We walk alone / In the unknown / We live to win another victory / Our sacred scars show who we are.” All in all, 12 Stones delivered a quality record with Picture Perfect. They go through a motion of styles that will grab attention of both new and old listeners.