Music, Pop Culture

Corey Stapleton & The Pretty Pirates Release Full Length LP

Pastoral themes have never been completely absent from rock n’ roll, but every once in a while there’s a songwriter who knows how to incorporate their influence in a way that changes – however fleetingly – the game for their contemporaries. Corey Stapleton & The Pretty Pirates are pretty fresh on my radar, but in their debut LP Sea Change, they make a strong case for the heartland harmonies and easy-riding folk-rock hooks that once were a lot more commonplace in pop music than they are today. With his voice and the aid of his band, Stapleton delivers pages of poetry that flawlessly complement a bucolic theme in the music, even when it’s been electrified, and though he could broaden his lyrical horizons a bit, what he presents here is worthwhile just the same.

I appreciate the focus this singer has when he’s got an emotional verse in front of him, such as those included in “Even Though,” “The Pen,” “As the Crow Flies,” and the powerful “Kabul’s Fallen.” He doesn’t sound like he’s trying to be a singer, but instead merely looking to be heard in some capacity or another. Ironically enough, it’s his harmonies that wind up telling us even more about the subtext of his verses than the words themselves, and the very fact that he’s able to communicate as openly as he does with the melodic trappings of this LP is something that a lot of his peers should be more than a bit jealous of.

Americana has been leaving a mark on a lot of new music from rock to hip-hop and beyond in the 2020s, and it’s definitely a force to be reckoned with in Sea Change. The songs “Mosaic,” “The Darkest Part,” “My First Rodeo. Not.,” “Western Son,” and “Make This Work” are cut from the aesthetical cloth of a westernized folk music movement that slowed down considerably by the end of the 1970s, but they don’t sound the least bit out of date here, largely because of the manner in which Stapleton is crooning to us, passionately and romantically. He’s not in love with his voice nor even the lyrics in these songs – it’s the medium itself, the model if you will, that he’s truly professing his love for in this LP.

It was only last month that I found out about Corey Stapleton & The Pretty Pirates for the first time, and even though they haven’t been active very long, I think it’s already clear that they’re going places their closest rivals might not be able to venture with the twelve songs in Sea Change. There are a couple of instances, such as the song “The Coin,” where I think these players are being a lot more hesitant than they need to be, but as they grow into their sound I believe that a lot of the nerves we hear in this record are going to dissipate, if not depart from their profile entirely. Simply put, folk-rockers can’t go wrong with this album, but this is especially true of whatever else Stapleton and his band produce next.

Cleopatra Patel

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