Austin, TX by way of Sheffield, UK singer-songwriter, producer and multi-instrumentalist Mark Stoney is back with his strongest and most diverse LP to date, More Than Animals, slated for a January 14 release. The record begins with a tangible bang and ends the same. It’s a concise, brilliantly arranged 12-track effort void of filler.
Though Animals marks only his third official release, Stoney’s music bears the presence of a Brit-pop veteran and recalls decades worth of influences in its classic hues. The preacher’s son from South London knows how to write a hook. The preponderance of his new album boasts remarkably catchy choruses, none more so than the moody, layered reprise of “Devil On My Back”. That track sets the emotional tone for the record, a decidedly darker affair than his last LP, 2007’s The Scene & The Unseen. Stoney’s provocative snapshot imagery suits Animals’ gloomy aesthetic well. Lines like “shivering like a whore turning tricks in the London rain” and “I’ll carve you on my heart just like a fool” provide abstract glimpses into the turmoil that informs his writing.
My lone criticism of the record is that Stoney’s radio-friendly ballads (e.g. “Bedpost” and “Let It Go”) pale in comparison to his uptempo, guitar-driven tracks. Though well produced and lyrically sound, they’re all too familiar. Stoney is at his most original and compelling under the dynamic blanket of tracks like “Cock of the Walk” and “Round Here”, the type of songs leading indie labels to throw offers at the unsigned Austin transplant as the new year approaches.