You know that film you’ve seen? You know the one, because there’s too many of them to count. The one where you’re rooting for the main character and you’ve only begun to try to understand them as they hit rock bottom. It’s almost comedic in the sense that a series of unfortunate events just seems to unfold the moment they’re walking down the street. Usually with this sort of movie there’s some sort of happy ending for the character. Only that’s not the case for Stephen Steinbrink.
The 28-year old singer-songwriter isn’t Ben Stiller in some rom-com or Simon Pegg in a dark comedy. In fact, as Steinbrink himself says, he doesn’t even identify with being a songwriter, citing it a “noble pursuit to try to be nothing”.
On July 1, Steinbrink released Anagrams, a 12-track album that encourages a sense of detachment from any sort of identity and yet somehow manages to be a completely immersive experience for any listener.
Stephen Steinbrink Plays on Words… and Feelings
In Stephen Steinbrink’s seventh album, the nomad, who hails from Arizona, debuts a newly-polished sound after recording for two years in a secluded professional studio on an island in Washington. Steinbrink manages to pack minimalism as well as experimental sounds right alongside familiar, charming pop in an album full of contradictions.
Throughout the album’s first track, “Absent Minds,” Steinbrink croons “When you want to die” alongside a warm pop-y tune. It gives you that fuzzy feeling reminiscent of what any Beatles song will do to you and yet, you realize it’s not all fun and games as Steinbrink allows you a glimpse into his troubled thoughts. In fact, these feelings that Steinbrink sings about — these struggles with failed love, emotions, addiction, and illness — can be suffered by anyone. That’s exactly why Steinbrink doesn’t try to make the story about himself specifically.
A polished indie pop album can often feel like one long song, but Steinbrink manages to play with sounds, refusing to let any part of the record feel quite the same. Whereas “Psychic Daydream” reveals a bit of Steinbrink’s younger, angsty side as he mixes upbeat rock with smooth pop, “Canopy” gives us a bit of that harder, no-longer-ambiguous sound, that manages to feel classically alternative, infused with emotion from the layered vocals and guitar that takes the spotlight. Steinbrink’s ironically hopeful pop melodies sync up flawlessly with his soothing, yet weary voice in tracks such as “Building Minds.”
The album’s title track “Anagrams” is disturbingly comforting, whereas “Black Hole/We Don’t Say Anything” explores a whole new realm — it gives you a dose of reality through its incorporation of everyday noise, such as children playing in streets, as haunting spoken words leave you with a lasting impression.
Anagrams by Stephen Steinbrink is now widely available, including on Melodic.