It is important for an artist to have as many influences as possible. Combining different types of influences can be risky. However, Roadstar, the new album by William Steffey, incorporates a wide variety of sounds, including garage guitar, electronic, jazz, and ’80s pop. The result is an album that is dramatically passionate, yet also jumbled and often repetitive.
Since Roadstar contains so many different genres of music, it’s hard to hear a consistent style. Some of the tracks like “Healing No. Four” sound very 1980s influenced. Other tracks, like the title track, sound more like techno or acid jazz.
Roadstar has a sound that might work as background music for a party. However, listening to it can be difficult because it tends to move slowly, with dramatic yet repetitive riffs and melodies. The title track, which is revisited at the end of the album, is often slow and extremely repetitive. Also, the track “Tracy Seems” has a very similar sound to the title track.
To further expand the mix of genres represented on this album, the track “Grow Crazy” has a heavy garage band sound. Adding garage style to the confused mix of techno, jazz and ’80s pop makes for a mix that sounds passionate but not at all grounded. It seems that Steffey was influenced by many different artists and genres and may be trying to incorporate the entirety of this vast mix of styles into Roadstar.
The sound, lyrics, and pace of Roadstar are all very dramatic. Steffey’s lyrics are intense yet they aren’t always easy for the listener to understand. For example, “Tracy Seems” features the simile “you’ve kept your act together like a kitten in a microwave.” The song “Tread” features the image “seashells in the speakers.” Although Steffey’s lyrics have a lot of intensity, they are filled with confusing similes and images that are too abstract to see without serious thought.
Steffey’s voice varies slightly from song to song yet it is consistently deep and dramatic. Although it works in some tracks, the sound of his voice does not always seem to go with some of the lyrics. “World’s Tallest Building” is the only instrumental track on the album. It incorporates a repetitive electronic style that is once again very reminiscent of the ’80s.
The dramatic and intense sound of Roadstar is very reflective of the sounds of many Chicago artists. However, by packing so many different types of influences into the album, Roadstar sounds overloaded with various styles.
The sounds and lyrics of Roadstar make it obvious that Steffey is very passionate about his music. However, by grouping together all his influences into one album, Steffey prevents Roadstar from having one style that carries through consistently.
By Bridget O’Shea