Stuart Newman’s online discography is somewhat extensive and all free to download. Describing himself as “mellow-rock”, Newman is based in Brighton and currently working on his second album. I dive into the back catalogue to see what I can find.
With a lot of material on offer, I decided to start with latest single, Living In Another Dimension. Instantly, it begins with a beautifully layered vocal effect on top of some simple acoustic guitar. The lyrics are wonderfully haunting and lamenting, but the track really hammers home with the chorus and a swift switch to a heavier electric style. Continuing into the outro, the result is a key injection of energy which takes the track to another level. It reminds me of early Feeder, but more confident and secure. A strong, slightly tongue in cheek, commentary on our current era, Living In Another Dimension presented a good sign of what was to come.
The demo collection, if nothing else, is excellently produced. It’s really debateable as to how ‘mellow’ Newman’s music is, but this is in no way a bad thing – each track has so much life and is so excellently crafted. Through the demos collection, Newman moves from relentless guitar tracks, like Temperature Rising to slow burning, melancholic offerings with ease. Head Hurts, in particular, demonstrates a certain macabre touch as he analyses the everyday with ethereal tones. The Decade, with its country influence, has a swagger like no other track in the collection is my favourite of the whole collection; a truly heartfelt dedication to the 60s.
The first album, Single But Defective, was therefore a little bit strange to go back to. Far more acoustically driven than the rest of the tracks, it still features a lot of the experimentation that the later tracks have and it’s clear to see the trajectory that Newman has taken when it comes to songwriting. The heavier elements included in the later tracks work really well and add a completely new dimension to Newman’s sound, but the predominately acoustic tracks of the first record are no less effective. For a start, these aren’t stripped down, simple songs. Tracks like Cry Wolf have a lot of humour, aided by the sarcastic spoken samples but in Oil, the samples give a chilling tale of American exploitation over a dark, low key loop. However, some of the more minimalist tracks are the most impressive. Summer Messin’ is a little reminiscent of Elliott Smith in its pretty but down beat chord structure but with much more tongue in cheek lyrics and If You Say captures doubt and frustration over some sublime picking. There are far more downbeat tracks in this early material and admittedly, several tracks start to overlap into each other, but there’s still a lot to fall in love with in this early collection.
I was quietly impressed with Stuart Newman. A truly skilled songwriter with a certain sense of humanity, his guitar driven anthems were a refreshing injection into my Sunday afternoon. Check out the whole discography at www.stuartnewmanmusic.com.