Album Review: The Autumn Stones – “Escapists”

I stumbled upon the Canadian band The Autumn Stones a while back on Twitter, so had to check out their music. I was immediately struck by their amazingly compelling sound that’s retro, yet fresh, with an 80’s vibe. Perhaps it’s the lively sax that’s heavily featured in their songs, or the fact that they seem to channel The Smiths or Blow Monkeys a bit in their style, but their music is definitely current.

Formed in 2010, The Autumn Stones have been though several personnel changes – not uncommon with bands – and are now comprised of Ciaran Megahey (vocals, lead guitar), Gary Butler (saxophones, guitar) and Marcus Tamm (bass). Their sophomore album Escapists dropped in July 2015, four years after their excellent debut album Companions of the Flame.  (Michael Newton played bass and Matthew McLaughlin hit the drums on Escapists, but have since left the band.)

According to Megahey in an interview for the website Pop Matters, “Lyrically, Escapists is a celebration of life, love and liberty. It’s also a flick to the nose of naughty faith-based ideologies.  Although that may sound super-heavy and serious, we aren’t delivering sermons—just trying to give people a compelling listening experience.”  He added that the addition of saxophonist Butler gives their songs on Escapists more character and nuance.

Regarding that amazing sax, Butler explained to The Quietus, “Our sound is the sum of many parts. We’re very early-alt rock influenced but at the same time we keep our feet firmly planted in modern subgenres, especially dream pop.”

Three singles included on the album were released in 2014, prior to the album’s launch a year later. The first, “End of Faith,” is brilliant. The subtle yet topically relevant lyrics – “This is the end of faith/the poisonous talk enslaved/freedom at last/chains of the past/what took so long to write this song,” – are expressed through Megahey’s smoldering vocals, and empowered by gorgeous, throbbing guitars reminiscent of Johnny Marr’s jangly riffs in “How Soon is Now?”, plus Butler’s assertive, wailing saxophone.

Their most recently-released single “Endless War” has a catchy, uptempo melody. The combination of both shredded and gentle guitars, punctuated by rapid-paced sax, contrast with the song’s darker lyrics “Gotta endless war on our hands.”

One of my favorite tracks on the album, “Time Is a River,” has a mellower, jazzy vibe, with nimble guitar riffs and funky sax that still manage to keep the energy level high.

“In With the Out Crowd” and “Dark Age” keep the jazzy energy flowing, while the track “Sweet Libertine” slows things down to a languid pace with acoustic guitar and mellow sax. The beguiling “Ooh La La,” another of my favorites, seems to channel early 80’s Smokey Robinson, as does “Creatures,” with their gentle, jangly guitar and wobbly sax.
You can learn more about the Autumn Stones on their website. Follow them on Twitter and listen to their music on Soundcloud or Spotify, or purchase on itunes.
A special thanks to Alison Waddell for the use of her photo.

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