Review by Matthew Forss
Oregon-native, Stephan Nance, presents a mix of quirky, folk-rock-pop songs of magical brilliance and catchy melodies on his latest release, A Troubled Piece Of Fruit. Stephan is the vocalist and plays keyboards, but is joined by Angelica Sather Hodgetts on cello and melodica, Merlin Showalter on percussion, Tim McLaughlin on bass, guitar, and trumpet, and Milo Fultz on bass for two tracks. The odd, art sounds are engaging and slightly jazzy, but always poetic.
“Spring” begins with a relatively steady piano tone with Stephan’s poetic voice gently rolling along with the piano tone. A plaintively-played cello adds a mournful touch to the music with only a few additional sounds that resemble metallic shrills. The music is more of a poetic piece than a song. For example, the words are generally spoken with only a slight tendency toward vocal singing. Nevertheless, “Spring” is a melancholic ballad with moving piano sounds and a classic song structure.
“Japanese Garden” opens with guitar that resembles a Jew’s harp. Stephan’s light humming and artsy vocals accompany the percussion and piano sounds. The music is upbeat with poetic wordplay that is delivered in a fast and slow manner. The rippling, electronic sounds of the guitars are bubbling with mesmerizing sounds. The latter half of the song features Russian vocals intermixed with English vocals on the rest of the track. The result is a richly-textured musical composition that takes folk art music to the next level. It is brilliantly produced with melodies and arrangements that are constantly moving, shifting, and changing.
“I Am Not A Stranger Here” opens with a pensive piano tone that is jaunty and upbeat. The piano sounds are met with Stephan’s poetic vocals and a little percussion. A guitar and folk-rock beat adds a nice mix of Regina Spektor with a touch of Jason Mraz. The sparkling guitar tones and percussion base are more pronounced than other tracks.
“The Song I Didn’t Write” begins with a pensive piano melody and breezy, poetic vocals. The music does not contain additional instrumentation. In short, the music is almost an introduction, because the total track length is under two-minutes.
“Cuddlefish” starts with a jaunty piano tune and quick vocals that are quirky and comedic. Stephan’s writing is top-notch, funny, and flows freely off the tongue and right into listener’s ears. The peppy tune is similar in tone to classic piano tunes from early Americana. The end of the song ends abruptly without an elaborate outro and nothing more than a few piano notes.
“One-Way Sea” begins with a few pensive piano notes that accompany a dazzling display of theatrical vocals that are primarily spoken word. The piano sounds are met with a few earthy cello sounds with a bit of a tango element. Still, the music is largely folk art pop with an intelligent mix of emotion and songwriting discipline.
Stephan Nance’s latest foray into the world of quirky, folk-pop is riddled with good elements and cheerful arrangements. Stephan’s command of emotive vocal displays is evident throughout the album. Also, many of the songs contain similar instruments, but they are used in slightly different ways. The vocals are a combination of spoken word and singing styles, which are matched with superb piano tones and assorted instrumentation. A Troubled Piece Of Fruit is a thirteen-track release with peculiar pop songs that are theatrical, but not necessarily high-brow. Fans of Ben Folds, Regina Spektor, and Jason Mraz will find solace in the slightly prosaic folk songs of Stephan Nance.