Building on the remarkable expansion of its musical parameters over the past five years, Stones Throw enlists Connecticut trio The Stepkids to push their boundaries past the stratosphere. With a pared down line up of guitarist Jeff Gitelman, keyboardist Dan Edinberg, and drummer Tim Walsh, The Stepkids sound like Polyphonic Spree sharing a hash pipe with Alejandro Jodorowsky and Sly Stone at an abandoned cult commune. Pretty weird, considering the trio’s collective professional credits include sharing stages with the likes of Alicia Keys, Lauryn Hill, and 50 Cent. Clocking in at 10 tracks, their eponymous album elects a short n’ sweet approach over an elaborated overstayed welcome.
Though the album was created in the 21st century, it owes a hefty debt to pop culture artifacts of decades past. The set opens with a Hare Krishna-esque chant before giving way to sinister “Brain Ninja.” Embellished with Maestro Rhythm King drum sounds, the tune plays like the theme song to Tarantino’s next b-movie masterpiece. The glistening lead single, “Shadows On Behalf” rings with the California pop brilliance of a long lost late 60s AM radio would be Beach Boys gem. Crooning lines in falsetto like “He’s the Shakespeare of his day…a prophet and a sage,” the guys poke fun at the pedantic and self-absorbed denizens of the pseudo-intellectual community who hold themselves in very high regard on the string quartet laced “Legend In My Own Mind.”
“Santos & Ken” struts with a gritty clavinet synth bass line that would make Stevie Wonder grin while the charming baroque pop nugget “La La,” one of the album’s highlights, floats on a Technicolor cloud of kaleidoscopic beauty. The lazy swamp rock funk of “Suburban Dream” finds the trio muscling in on the Black Keys’ Muscle Shoals territory. Flaunting a smattering of psych rock, glints of fuzz funk, analog tape hiss, and virtually no FFWD moments in sight, it’s hard to not warm up to this record. Hands down, The Stepkids are definitely alright.
-Rico a.k.a. Superbizzee