Kelley Stoltz, Circular Sounds
For musical artists whose main influence can easily be pinpointed to a prominent style of thirty or forty-plus years ago, it’s easy to be criticized for just rehashing that decade. Kelley Stoltz’s sound has often been described as sounding straight from the 1960s psychedelic-pop era, but on Circular Sounds, his third Sub Pop release, he mashes that style with touches of bluesy riffs and light acoustic work, creating music that is both familiar and distinctly quirky.
The opener is a bit of a clunker, experimenting with slightly discordant horns and piano, but coming off as pretty unmemorable. It’s followed up by the immediately catchy “Tintinnabulation,” which sounds kind of like the opening to a mystery cartoon — in a really good way. The staple of the song is a sort of call-and-response instrument/vocal hook that will linger in your head for days. The third track, “The Birmingham Eccentric,” is the one that perhaps best showcases Stoltz’s musical arsenal — layered vocals, bubbly bass lines, ringing keys, and perfectly timed horns are all wrapped up together in this power-poppy explosion.
The middle of the album introduces a mellower tempo, which he executes masterfully; “Put My Troubles to Sleep” is unexpectedly pretty, tinged with southern licks over wistful, drawn-out guitar. Things speed back up with “Your Reverie,” the album’s first single. Though not as original-sounding as the rest of the album, this straightforward rock song is definitely a crowd-pleaser.
Stoltz’s talent for songwriting and structure is made apparent in the way he skillfully layers instrument over instrument without making anything sound heavy or overdone — surely not a simple feat by any means. Any music fan that’s susceptible to a good pop hook will be completely smitten by Circular Sounds.