Album review: never go your way – The Stillsons

Review by Kinch Kinski

The Stillsons’ new album never go your way is a thing of beauty. It combines an alt-country taste for the sound of instruments in a room and thoughtful lyrics with solid pop sensibilities and catchy choruses.

Song-writing and lead vocal duties are shared by drummer-vocalist Cat Canteri and guitarist-pianist-vocalist Justin Bernasconi. Broadly speaking Canteri delivers the dreamy pop-rock – at times reminiscent of the best Fleetwood Mac – while Bernasconi delivers twangier country-rock material. The two collaborate on a number of songs, and they have an effortless vocal blend that is a highlight of the album.

The well-balanced instrumentation and musicianship of the band is a joy to listen to. Canteri’s drumming is tasteful and expressive, and Edmondo Ammendola fills out the bottom end with driving bass lines. Over this foundation Barnasconi casts a web of reverb-drenched acoustic guitar and crunchy electric licks, all sung over by the luminous pedal steel work of Ben Franz.

The songs themselves are all choice cuts – no filler here – and they trace pictures of damaged relationships with sensitivity and gentle humour. Choosing highlights is tricky with an album this consistent, but there are standouts. ‘Another Lover’ is notable for its crying guitars, perfect harmonies, and tear-stained lyrics about a romance teetering on the edge of its ending. It also has a harmonised double-guitar solo worthy of a stadium.
On ‘Small Things’ Bernasconi delivers a charmingly nasal letter of complaint to a neglectful lover over saloon stomping country rock.The emotionally raw duet ‘Everything’ charts the emotional map of a break-up with disarming clarity. I challenge you not to sigh wistfully over lines like “I’m not the one you need, you’re everything to me”.

‘Dish it Out’ is the album’s best contender for a hit single, with its addictive melody and Friday-night-dancefloor beat. Lyrically, the song tackles the depredations and grandiose delusions of a troubled family member. Musically, it is an irresistible blend of the Rolling Stones and Crowded House. I just listened to it five times, and I’m gonna listen again.

The Stillsons know how to write a song, and on never go your way they show that they also know how to bring those songs to life in a studio. If quality song-writing, beautiful vocals, and ace musicianship are your thing then never go your way and your music collection should meet and make friends.

The Stillsons launch never go your way Friday November 8 at the Northcote Social Club, you can book tickets here and buy the album now through bandcamp

About Les Thomas 106 Articles
Narrm/Melbourne singer-songwriter and Unpaved editor