Stoney – More Than Animals Album Review

Stoney is the award winning British singer-songwriter who NPR described as recalling, “…a younger David Bowie with the dapper swagger of The Kinks.” His debut album was circulated among musicians until it gained intensive media attention from places such as NME and the Independent, leading to high profile tours with the Arctic Monkeys and Aqualung.

Despite his growing success, Stoney, true to form, decided to relocate to Texas, following a performance at the SXSW festival. Citing a need for “sunshine and change” he set up home and studio with a small community of quirky poet and painter friends in an old creaky house in Austin to work on new material.

Now, Stoney is ready to release More Than Animals, a full-length album every bit as fearlessly eclectic as his previous work, albeit more sophisticated and with an altogether darker tone.

For those with knowledge of the UK underground music scene, the name Mark Stoney may already be a familiar one. The distinctive song writing talent of the critically acclaimed and somewhat enigmatic multi-instrumentalist has been held in high regard among many in the know on both sides of the Atlantic for some time now. Stoney returns with his new album More Than Animals which demonstrates Stoney’s natural British pop sensibilities refined with profoundly intimate lyrics and soaring melodic arrangements that burst with passion, personality and depth.

Stoney was raised the son of a preacher in the UK’s South London suburbs before drifting up north to Sheffield where, in his musical infancy, he became a key figure as a performer and producer in the Steel City’s blossoming music scene, later labelled as the “New Yorkshire Movement” by the NME. Stoney’s keen ear for classic pop melody combined with a sharp lyrical potency and rare ability to effectively blend genres from folk to soaring rock to trip-hoppy-electronica earned him a loyal following in the city that spawned such acts as Pulp, The Human League and Arctic Monkeys to name a few. His self-released debut album The Scene & the Unseen had been circulated among musicians for some time before it eventually grew to catch the attention of the UK media, spawning glowing reviews and accolades across the UK press.

Radio play and guest appearances on 6music, BBC R2 and Xfm led to Festival appearances at Glastonbury and Leeds and high profile tours with the likes of Arctic Monkeys, Aqualung and Athlete forged Stoney a reputation as an exhilarating live performer. The record even found it’s way over the Atlantic and into the hands of uber producer Rick Rubin who flew Stoney to LA for a private show. Tastemaker DJ Nic Harcourt too became a fan and after heavy championing on his LA-based KCRW show, Stoney’s music started popping up in several Hollywood films and TV shows.

Sweet Release kick starts More Than Animals. It’s a great starting track with soaring vocals showing the extent of Stoney’s vocals abilities. String compositions start the track and introduce the song leading the listener to think that this is a calm, ballad number but then Stoney’s vocals burst into the track, “Sweet release come to me/I know that you’ll never let go once you’re in control.” Then it’s the bass and drums’ turn to explode through the speakers, building the dynamics in this song. The drum beat really carries the rhythm in this song, being the dominant instrument.

The Score is a dark song full of punk energy mixed with Electronica influences. It’s a little bit 1980s – oddly blending 80s electronic pop and 80s punk rock in a way that works perfectly. Stoney’s vocals take on another personality, a more cunning and sinister personality, which is particularly prevalent in the chorus, “No I never get the last laugh only the blame/And I should never let my dark heart blacken my name/But I’m addicted to the hard line playing the game/And never settle for a draw/Forever levelling the score”.

Defiantly Loved is a dramatic love song which is full of passion. It explains the story of a dying love in a relationship where one person has lost their love for the other but out of loyalty and commitment, they choose to stay which leads to a sense of false love that tears them further apart, “Faster, faster you know time’s not on my side/The truth I harbour is getting harder now to hide/A child abandoned coming present in my skin/Still unforgiven for giving in/But so defiant/Defiant/Defiantly loved by you”. The song is written from the perspective of the person who is left knowing their partner no longer loves them.

Defiantly Loved has some outstanding poetic lyrics in it, “Our lives divided/But we steel our nerve and spine/I for your own sake/And you for mine” and “The river rolls on with a grace upon it’s shame/The faithful white swan loyal to it’s poisoned veins/A thousand secrets that have drowned within those depths/Bound and silenced on a stone cold bed”.

More Than Animals isn’t just full of heavy tracks. We Belonged is a heart wrenching love song which will not fail to bring a tear to your eye. It’s the sweetest song of 2013. Stoney’s vocals are soft in comparison to the previous tracks on the record. It’s an acoustic number, fully romantic to the point of tears. Stoney sings about the lose of a soul mate, “I can hear you draw me nearer/Echo of you still going strong/I can’t believe you’re gone…”, “From the oak tree/Where you broke me/With a kind word/And a knowing smile/I hear you breathe a while…” and “And you shone so damn brightly/And all that you awoke inside me/Is dancing in the dark without a song…” The accompanying video (below) is beautifully shot. We dare you not to cry when you hear this song or watch the video.

Bedpost is another romantic love song about a one night stand, told from the unusual perspective of the man who is upset that the girl sneaks out before he wakes, “And will you even mark the notch into your bedpost darling?/Or add me to the tally on your wall?/When you leave before your scent has left my starving skin/And I carve you on my heart just like a fool/Here’s to you”. Bedpost has heartbroken soaring vocals showcasing real passion. Stoney really makes his songs come to life. They pull at your heart strings, you can associate with him as he pours his heart out in his lyrics and vocals. He writes poetry that’s meant to be sung.

Albatross is gentle and calming after all the previous full throttle songs. Albatross starts with an acoustic guitar and Stoney’s soothing vocals before the rest of the instruments come in to build the song’s layers. There are string accompaniments to Stoney’s incredibly soft and angelic vocals. It’s a completely different sound to the rest of the record. Lyrically, Albatross is the strongest on the record. This is a true artistic and poetic song. If you really listen to the lyrics, you’ll be blown away.

Round Here is a country and blues rock inspired song making it an interesting track to end the album on. Stoney’s vocals are very feminine at the start; they are strikingly beautiful, “But til I leave Hades/She serves me well/She’s the closest thing to heaven in this living hell/In this kicking, screaming hell” but they soon change to sound like an angry cowboy, “You look like you’ve lost your way/You ain’t from round here are you boy?”

Round Here once again contains story telling lyrics, “They know who’s who/And they’ve never seen you/New blood comes through once in a blue moon/If you’re trying to blend in/You picked a bad night/You’re chicken in a wolves den/Rabbit in a headlight”. It’s a fantastic song full of enthusiasm and energy, you’ll fail to hate this song.

Stoney has produced a truly breath taking record in More Than Animals. The album has variety from your romantic or acoustic numbers (We Belonged and Albatross) to the punk rock songs (Devil On My Back and House Of Mirrors). Stoney’s lyrics are strong, passionate and poetic – he really is one of the best lyricists around today. On top of this amazing talent, he also has a brilliant range of vocals, he produces songs with wonderful melodies and he has the ability to fuse genres to produce melodic and catchy yet meaningful songs. He uses all his talents to create true art – More Than Animals is the result of this. It’s a record that’s a triumph. It will definitely be one of the best albums of 2014.

More Than Animals is due for release January 14 2014 via digital download and limited edition CD, supported by full band live appearances to be announced shortly.

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