San Francisco’s secret weapon is slipping out his tenth (!!) album on low key label Banana and Louie. Feels like Stoltz has been a part of this site for the better part if its duration and whether he’s behind the boards (The Love-Birds, Rays, Sandwitches) or working as a studio rat (Thee Oh Sees, Sonny & The Sunsets, The Fresh & Onlys) he’s a welcome name in the credits of any release. More important yet, his own mounting discography is packed full of jangled-nerve post-punk and paisley pools of pop that mark him as not only a conduit for others’ excellent visions, but as a purveyor of his own unique strain of pop psychosis. Natural Causes comes fresh off of last year’s Que Aura. a highlight in the songwriter’s late period catalog. While the short, but sweet, nine-cut album doesn’t quite dig in its heels as hard as last year, there are some moments of pure Stoltz on display here.
The record is valiantly attempting to balance Kelley’s love for light-touch jangles and sunshine shimmy with his weakness for a darker side of the ‘80s. “Decisions Decisions” packs up some of his most shimmering strums, while eschewing the darker threads of post-punk that work their way through his pieces. Similarly, he’s huffing a dose of verdant vapors throughout the handclap-infected shaker, “Are You An Optimist.” The album caps off with one of his most fun tunes in a while, the light-hearted jangler, “Rolling Tambourine” – a barrelhouse romp through 60s’ pop impulses. That’s not to say he’s shed the post-punk pound just yet. There’s a post-disco shiver that runs through “Static Electricity” and he adopts a spaced ominousness for the particularly on the nose “How Psychedelic Of You.” When Stoltz wants to bring on the preening intensity, he’s got you more than covered.
For an artist who has released albums everywhere from Sub Pop to Third Man to Castle Face, this seems to come with desperately little fanfare, which is a damn shame. While he’s got albums that outstrip it in scope and style, there’s a lot to love on Natural Causes and Stoltz never leaves listeners without a few hooks stuck in their heads. There’s some great polish on the album and its clear that Stoltz keeps enough of his studio tricks for his own albums. Don’t let this one slip away in the flood of 2018 albums. Kelley Stoltz remains a modern songwriting workhorse and this small collection does little to tarnish his reputation.
Support the artist. Buy it HERE.