Delivered with a passion that can’t be faked into existence no matter how dedicated the player might be, Corey Stapleton’s vocal leads a charge toward climactic bliss in the new album Sea Change that is unlike any other you’re going to hear this spring. Rather than approaching this debut LP with the same formula a lot of his peers have been using, which is more reliant on instrumental virtuosities and surrealism than it is on anything straightforward in the pop model,
Stapleton employs an old fashioned sense of melodicism in this record that matches up well with the style of his singing, highlighting his old school qualities while keeping the narrative grounded in the here and now. Sea Change starts with a heady piece in its title track and slowly blossoms into a multifaceted masterpiece that doesn’t feel like the product of someone simply trying to hammer out an album by a specific deadline, and although his words are as strong as iron in many of these performances, the smooth-singing player at the helm of this project is never too forceful with his lyricism, nor the harmonies that have been charged with framing it.
Stapleton has a poise about him in tracks like “The Coin,” “Even Though,” and “As The Crow Flies” that caught my attention the first time I sat down with Sea Change, and although his lack of urgency in other songs such as “New Me” and the single “Western Son” is a bit contrasting, it doesn’t slow the momentum of the album as a whole.
On the contrary, juxtaposition is an attribute he utilizes quite well from one song to the next, and he isn’t afraid to let instrumental quirks extend his narrative when necessary (after all, it’s a lot better than resorting to the innate bells and whistles we’re all used to hearing in contemporary pop). “The Pen,” “Make This Work,” and “The Darkest Part” are all radio-ready performances, and I don’t know that they were even designed to be per se. Stapleton is wearing his heart on his sleeve more often than not in Sea Change, which affords him accessibility that can be hard to come by in some of the underground channels making waves in 2022.
Those who are looking for an artist who knows how to make easy-listening music the right way needn’t search any further for a hot record this April, and I doubt I’m going to be the only critic who is saying as much about Sea Change at the moment. This is an LP that comes together progressively and with ease, and if it’s giving us any sort of real indication as to the kind of cohesiveness Corey Stapleton can produce in ideal situations, his studio career is going to find its way into the mainstream spectrum a lot sooner than later.
There are a lot of surprises in store for any who assumed this would be a black and white singer/songwriter effort, and personally, I think Sea Change stands out as one of the better offerings of its kind this year.