by WestCoast Weasel WestCoast Weasel
March 20, 2010

I had been unfamiliar with the likes of Philip Stevenson (including his bands Carnival of Souls, Quinine & Vaus) prior to hearing his MySpace three track offering.  While I read his dry, bitter mini-autobiography I immediately identified with Phil as he identified with Bob Dylan and perhaps his distant grandson Elliot Smith.

Having the physical copy prior to its release allowed for a proper indulgence into the piece as an album, rather than a few clicks of a mouse.  A young woman engulfed in a body of water is shown front and centre, a hair-raising photo on the disc itself.  Black and white roses make up the rest of Starless’ imagery; a picture painted so apt for the calm intrigue that would follow.

Dolphin-like slide guitar starts the journey on “Anatomy” where Phil’s reverberated voice swims and gasps, “It gets you high / It gets me high” repeatedly.  A spicier blues rocker follows, shaking things up sooner than later on the horn heavy (though mundane) “Deuteronomy.”  The light strings, subtle xylophone, and mellow country rhythm guitar are warm but come second to the soulful blanket that is Philip’s voice on “Fix Me.”  “I’m so happy I’m lost / In staying here with no changes / No matter what the cost / I’m waiting for you to fix me one more time” rings out on one of the album’s stronger pieces.

While variation has its merits, I personally prefer the mellower cuts like “If You Ever Love Something” where again his voice rivals the acoustic guitars, altogether offering much more than twangy jams such as “I’m A Boy.”  “Weak Boys” is the album’s heaviest track but in a way so ambient that it doesn’t take away from a predominantly folk-rock record.  His voice—soothing as ever—keeps the listener at ease while a Butch Vig-sounding array of distorted guitars layered in feedback provide its backbone.

Judging by both the fact that “Where I Don’t Belong” is the album cut streamed on MySpace and also the catchiest of the bunch, I suspect it’s the first single.  This isn’t the first time where his vocal track is doubled for effect.  Beneath the vocal track—compliments of the combined percussion of the tambourine, drums and acoustic guitars alike—my toes start tapping.

Aside from a couple southern fried gems that seemed a little out of place and lacked strength on their own, Starless is a soothing, yet never too sad or sappy collection of tunes.  Although I suspect commercial viability isn’t on the top of Philip’s priority list, a few more hooks throughout might garner a higher repeat value even for the not-so average guy or gal—like me.

…Weasel Was Here

Choice Cuts:  Fix Me, Weak Boys, Where I Don’t Belong

out of 5 weasels.

Preview each track here.

Tracklisting:

  1. Anatomy
  2. Deutronomy
  3. Fix Me
  4. I’m A Boy
  5. Extraction One
  6. If You Ever Love Something
  7. Weak Boys
  8. Don’t Go Now
  9. Extraction Three
  10. Where I Don’t Belong
  11. Extraction Two
  12. More Good Than Bad
  13. Where You’re Going To
  14. You Look So Good Tonight

Starless is available March 23, 2010 on Night World Records

Visit Philip Stevenson online:  myspace.com/philipstevenson

Never trust a weasel. Support the artist and find out for yourself. WestCoastWeasel.com encourages purchasing Starless locally at Red Cat Records in Vancouver, B.C, any independent record store of your choice or online here.

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