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Album Review - The Stephen Stanley Band's Before the Collapse of the Hive

With Jimmy & The Moon, and the records that preceded it, singer songwriter Stephen Stanley had perfunctorily established himself as a conjurer of vivid, visceral lyrical landscapes long before the release of his newest record Before the Collapse of the Hive. This time around, Stanley takes an imaginative leap by fusing his familiar brand of rootsy storytelling Americana to intriguing new elements, creating something fresh and compelling while retaining the requisite familiarities for which he’s revered.

The musicianship is warm and accessible, with Stanley graciously coaxing his collaborators to join him in his limelight – a smouldering Kate Fenner slays on “Straw Man”, and producer Chris Brown’s Hammond lines on “The Ballad of Lou Room” tastefully augment the proceedings.

The album’s finest moment may be “The Owl”; spare and regal acoustic contemplation reminiscent of Stanley’s folky forebears, it marks the zenith of the record’s intimacy.

“No Lost Love” and “Hey Darlene” are irresistibly bright, superbly arranged compositions belying an easy, comfortable assuredness with zero pretension. The sax break that concludes album closer “Holding Back on Someday” serves as a parting wink to listeners who thought the record couldn’t be any more likeable.

Before the Collapse of the Hive offers something distinctly different that can’t be tethered to a specific genre, but its majesty lies in the fact that it slyly nods to all the truly beautiful ones.


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