>> If you have not had the privilege to put this new EP to your ears now would be a good time. This album is a hook machine, grabbing you by the nose and leading you into a grove of fruiting rock n’ roll Elms and Oaks. These hooks aren’t just radio friendly pop hooks, they evoke the soul of rock, a sound like the Black Keys or the Arctic Monkeys. If you’re still reading and haven’t turned on The Stedwells 'Hideout,' it’s appreciated.
It’s hard to believe that The Stedwells come from our backyard. Rochester, New York isn’t necessarily the home of rock and roll, even though the House of Guitars has been a staple here for what seems like since the dawn of man, but they’ve found a niche in 'Hideout.' They sound comfortable, driven, and emotive. It has a timeless feel, but acts as a commencement for the trio's capability. The very first track on the album, the aptly named "Wake Up," is a pure rock gem and every bit as catchy as anything currently making regular play on the radio. There’s a J Roddy Walson and the Business feel to this track, a Led Zeppelin tasty hook with a pounding beat that you can’t help but love. It’s complete with a searing guitar solo that cuts like a knife into the heart of the tepid, flaccid, radio friendly pop rock of the modern age.
The next two tracks on the album show off the trio’s songwriting abilities. “Wrong” sounds as if it should’ve been the best song off The Strokes second album, with a catchier and juicier melody than anything 'Room on Fire' produced. There’s telephone reverb on the vocals that gives the garage rock sound a nod, but probably takes a little too much attention off of the falsetto in the chorus, an at once familiar and unique voice that need not feel so hidden. “You Could Have It All” is up next, and if you make it this far into the EP and you’re not already frothing at the mouth to see this band live than this is the track that’s going to do it. It’s not just catchy, but it's sincere. It's a burst of feeling from the chest, with a slow rolling drum beat and sticky ghost notes on the snare that start the track, eased out with a melodic bassline and warm guitar line.
"Burn Me Down," the fourth track, shows off versatility, a well written and anthemic punk rock song, and the shortest on the album. It’s fierce and angry but there’s still a touch of vibrato hung on the end of each vocal phrase that proves it’s a controlled burn, hotter than hell. This is the only track where production muddles the impact of the track, a wispy reverb floating in the air that could have been traded for a crisper sound, a crackling of firewood in the winter air. But the sound is warm enough to blend to the rest of the album to make it seamless as it heads into the last track.
The title track to the EP, "Hideout," is a bouncy pop leaning song that could have been slowed into a ballad. The track has a personal feel, something specially created to reach out to someone. It has a movie magic soundtrack quality that encompasses professional songwriting at its acme. It’s unclear if this track has a special meaning to the band and that’s why the EP is named 'Hideout,' or if it’s too confessional to talk about, but the feeling remains: cards played close to the vest with a heart on the sleeve, and it’s damn near perfect. The truth probably doesn’t matter, it’s a staunch ending to the album, and leaves you wanting more, the perfect anchor to a great album.
The Stedwells are poised to be a great rock band and 'Hideout' proves they’re well on their way. They’ve started a journey here and it feels powerful and prideful. This isn’t a hobby, these aren’t guys waiting for their break, they're in full stride and about to burst wide open. Get on the bandwagon and get into this album and into their next show before you can’t get in the door.