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Circular Sounds

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Album Review

Indie rock auteur Kelley Stoltz has moved away from the "lo-fi" tag with each successive album. Circular Sounds is his lushest production yet, but it still bears Stoltz's eclectic stamp, sounding less like the work of a conventional musician and more like the complicated workings of a record collector's brain. The disparate influences of the Kinks, Nick Drake, and Brian Wilson all share equal space here, from the twangy, handclapped shuffle of "To Speak to the Girl" to the druggy harmonies and eccentricities that make "You Alone" sound like a long-lost ballad from Brian Wilson's Smile. If Stoltz hasn't fully graduated to hi-fi status yet, he's certainly headed that way, and even the album's quietest songs have the sort of Technicolor production that sounds rich without threatening the creator's D.I.Y. cred. "Gardenia" is a rainy-day ballad with attitude, revolving around a saucy riff that Stoltz doubles on piano and acoustic guitar, and the gentle "Something More" employs fingersnaps and a harmonized melody that the Everly Brothers might've sported. Then there's the album's first single, "Your Reverie," a straight-faced piece of garage rock that struts and stomps with a mix of organs, double-tracked vocals, and guitar fuzz. Like the rest of the album, "Your Reverie" is purposely reminiscent of the '60s — not in the way that Panda Bear's Person Pitch reinterpreted the decade for 21st century listeners, but in a reverent manner that closely imitates Stoltz's influences. Circular Sounds is altogether smoother than the musician's previous work, but it's far from slick, packed with enough grit (note the slightly off-key horns in "Everything Begins") to set itself apart from the retro-rock catalog.


Born: 1971 in Michigan

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '90s, '00s, '10s

Singer/songwriter Kelley Stoltz grew up in the Detroit area, but eventually found his way to San Francisco after taking a detour to New York City, where he worked in the mailroom at Jeff Buckley's management company. Armed with a four-track recorder and a wealth of lo-fi pop songs, Stoltz began recording his own material, performing all the parts himself and drawing comparisons to artists like Brian Wilson and Captain Beefheart. Those songs caught the ear of Monte Vallier, who helped Stoltz clean...
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Circular Sounds, Kelley Stoltz
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