Clocking into his 17th album, Kelley Stoltz proves as malleable and deft a songwriter as ever. On par with the slippery shimmer of Double Exposure, Que Aura, or Ah(!) Etc, The Stylist pulls from glam, new wave, disco, and post punk with greedy hands and enviable weaving skills. What works in the through line is Stoltz’ pop confidence, a shadow of swagger that follows the listener through each stylistic change. And that’s kind of the core of the album, Stoltz sees himself as an arbiter of moods, a curator of tone as he shifts like the subtle static behind the radio dial, the listener brightens and molds to his pop palette.
HIs time spent with Echo and the Bunnymen always seems to have left an imprint on Stoltz’ sound, but he folds their quicksilver new wave into the mix in subtle ways. The brooding darkness of “We Grew So Far Apart,” lets it linger on the surface, but even below the 80s piano pound “In The Night,” there’s that guitar flash that seems familiar. Elsewhere he lets a heart warp quiver melt over “My Wildest Dream,” and plays up the almost Twinkeyz/ R. Stevie Moore twitch burrow into “Steve & The Rats.” Ultimately the fact that Stoltz can make any subject seem cool, from chance encounters to succulents, is what makes him one of the great American songwriters. The new album is just one more reason to believe.
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