Stinkus – ’23’

The debut album from Stinkus, 23 resonates with a dynamic, melodic range of rock, folk, and pop. Compelling songwriting shows throughout, alongside a thematic focus on processing a previous relationship and striving to move ahead. The project is the alias of producer/songwriter Tyler Thompson, who has fronted previous projects like WILD and girlhouse. <23 represents Thompson’s first foray into making music entirely by himself; he handles all writing, production, mixing, and mastering here. Combined with its personal basis — the project began days following a break-up with an ex-fiancĂ©e of seven years — the DIY ethos makes for an enthrallingly intimate pull throughout.

Thompson has also found success in producing pop music for film and TV, pursuing an aesthetic that is comparatively “very polished and clean.” 23 embraces greater spontaneity and an enjoyably grittier disposition, aligning well with the personal themes within. “I wanted to make something raw that didn’t use digital plugins or much of anything,” Thompson explains. The result is one that retains the sharp clarity of a talented producer in Thompson, while also succeeding with tonal and structural traversals that enjoyably draw outside the lines a bit.

Tonal versatility becomes quickly evident on 23. The range is palpable; “FOLLOW” consumes in its heavy blasts of guitar distortion, with a roaring shoegaze-friendly enticement, while the album’s title track enamors with a bright folk-pop enamoring that sounds like a summer day. The structural developments are consistently satiating as well, with tracks like “Fucked Up Song” venturing seamlessly from quaint folk melancholics into rousingly anthemic rock. Stinkus has crafted an album whose unpredictable structural directions represent a clear part of its charm.

“The best part of being 23 was not knowing who was good and who was fucking with me,” the vocals let out on the title track, recalling a sense of blissful ignorance and sense of contentment before tumult. The la-la vocal effect thereafter embraces that sweet nostalgia further, aligning with sentiments of youthful retrospection. A more ardent composure takes hold on “Rodeo Mary,” also embracing a la-la vocal charisma though with greater ferocity. These tracks excel with their range of wordless vocal enthusiasm and narrative-laden commentary, alongside a consistently melodic spellbinding.

Another standout, “I Am” infuses spacey synths alongside acoustic twangs for a hypnotic captivation. Brass-y additions soaring alongside expressive vocal layers, bolstering a track whose wide breadth of instrumentation is exemplary of Thompson’s astute knack for production and relatable lyrical observations, strengths that are on full display throughout the gripping 23.

23 releases on April 5th.

Mike Mineo

I'm the founder/editor of Obscure Sound, which was formed in 2006. Previously, I wrote for PopMatters and Stylus Magazine.

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