Need an Album Title? Good
The Stevens’ new album is entitled Good, potentially a way to subliminally plant that adjective in its listeners’ heads. To describe it in movie terms, albums like Thriller or Nevermind are like The Godfather: most people realize the high quality and enjoyability with a first viewing, and it doesn’t really take a film buff to know that The Godfather is a great movie — or, in the case of Thriller, a great album. Movies like Inherent Vice will probably take a more refined set of eyes/ears to enjoy and speak critically of. The same principle applies here with Good. Before reading further, if in search of a fuller, clearer appreciation of the album, listen to Good more than once. But, of course, not everything can float everyone’s boat.
Without sounding monotone, there is great consistency through this album, as if each song is a part of the same section of a large essay, all working towards one specific argument within a larger context. The lo-fi, garage-recorded sound is perhaps the main factor in providing this album’s consistency. If there is but one movie or TV scene that emerges from the hums, strums and gently-beating drums, it’s a well-intended high school boyfriend-type — not very bright but emotionally intact under a stereotypical exterior (think a mix between Steve Harrington from Stranger Things and Paulie Bleeker from Juno). This album is his patchy, seemingly incomplete, but honest magnum opus for the girl he seeks.
Standout tracks include the following: “Chancer,” the opener, has a pulsing guitar part that at first seems a bit too jumpy but actually evolves into one of the catchiest things on the album. “Rosebud” references the movie that made its name famous (Citizen Kane), with those two words making up the chorus. The instrumental — especially the drumming — in “Putting All the Facts Together” is arguably the best demonstration of the band’s playing ability on this project. The second and fourth tracks, “Grandstands” and “Escape from Party Island,” respectively, are both enjoyable, yet only last for roughly a minute-and-a-half each, which inhibits them from being top songs.
The vocals on numerous tracks sound half complain-y and half tired, which might be exactly what the band was going for, but it can make the album hard to sit all the way through the first time. Additionally, none of these songs are particularly catchy and, frankly, this album likely won’t top anyone’s list of “Best of 2017,” but it’s like seeing less attractive characters on screen: not everyone can be a Clooney, and it’s more realistic that way anyway.
These teen angst-sounding songs will fair better with age, and while this is not a musically impressive or flashy album, it does have some beautiful humanness to it, and that is good enough.