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Posted on June 6th, 2011 (12:00 pm) by Michael Cirigliano

I often think of chillwave as a plague on indie music. The excessive amounts of reverb often associated with the genre usually does more harm than good, by helping lackluster artists cover up the flaws in their songwriting and vocal talent. Although the warm and summery feeling of nostalgia is inviting and comforting, nothing can make up for a lack of confidence or talent, which makes Rifle Meeker, the debut LP of StaG, all the more striking. The formerly Los Angeles area-based duo recently moved to Boulder, Colorado shortly before beginning work on the full-length, and you can hear the influences of both states in their beautifully-crafted sound.

Sharing the vocal spotlight, band members Matt McGuire and Will Walden feel equally confident in front of the microphone—providing such a sense of unity that it is often hard to tell their vocal styling apart from each other. Where StaG departs from other bands trying to replicate the fuzzed-out sounds of the ‘60s is the prominence and clarity given to the vocal lines and lyrics. To StaG, the voice is not merely part of the texture, but a necessary focal point, making tracks like “Tired” and “Morsels (For a Task)” take on a quasi-operatic quality.

The diversity in approach to tempo also helps to make Rifle Meeker a success. Not content with a barrage of up-tempo songs that cumulatively amount to album filler, McGuire and Walden move convincingly between energetic and fuzzy Beach Boys-style pop and the slower groove of achingly beautiful ballads. After the wall of guitar sound used in opening track, “I Swin (Bare)”, “Malcolm” comes across as reserved and humble, taking the best elements of chillwave—nostalgia, rhythmic loops, and cavernous guitars—and fusing them into gentle odes to summer. The move to Colorado further enhances StaG’s sound, as the duo has started incorporating many beautiful folk elements into the album. Guitars gently strum, harmonicas soar, and songs remain so hushed that you can almost hear the crackling of the campfire in the background.

McGuire and Walden note that much of the inspiration for Rifle Meeker came from their shared sentiment of feeling lost in their new environment, of “living in a city I didn’t think was right for me”. While that might have been the case at the inception of the album, the end result only proves that their Colorado influences have fused well with their California sensibilities. Equally cheery and depressing, Rifle Meeker strikes the ear and the heart—a wonderful blend of hazy memories of the past and clear excitement for the future.

Track List:

1. I Swim (Bare)
2. Malcolm
3. Turn Away
4. Rifle
5. Offwise
6. Whatapity
7. Everyone Is Plaster
8. Tired
9. Optimist
10. Noise
11. Morsels (For A Task)

StaG: Rifle Meeker
Purchase at: Amazon | eMusic

Our Rating

72 / 100
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