Every Monday through Friday, we deliver a different song as part of our Song of the Day podcast subscription. This podcast features exclusive KEXP in-studio performances, unreleased songs, and recordings from independent artists that our DJs think you should hear. Each and every Friday we offer songs by local artists. Today’s selection, featured on The Afternoon Show with Kevin Cole is “Praises in Your Name” by Adam Haworth Stephens from his 2010 debut, We Live on Cliffs, on Saddle Creek.
The album opener, “Praises in Your Name,” starts out timid enough, with little distorted riffs here and there, as if the musicians are trying to work something out. They soon get a kick in the pants when Adam Haworth Stephens’ emotive vocals crack through. Surprisingly, this is the dead giveaway to his previous claim to fame as one-half of the San Francisco duo Two Gallants. But Stephens seems to break away from his old flame just the same by beefing up his solo sound with more pop hooks and emphasizing instrumentation and production, thus ornamenting the otherwise introspective folk narrative that drives through with his magnetic voice. Musical familiarities abound with notes of surf rock, accelerating western rhythms, uptempo pop sensibility, and the jaunty anthemic closing — rugged and fringed with feedback and fuzz — cradling the off-kilter, hoarse and nasal, yet soothingly angst-ridden, vocals that yank on the heartstrings like an over aggressive maypole dancer.
A bevy of musicians hopped on board to support the solo Gallant and to throw in layers upon layers of instrumentation; offering an earcandy buffet to We Live on Cliffs are Bo Koster of My Morning Jacket, Cody Votolato of Blood Brothers and Jaguar Love, and current touring band members Jen Grady contributing to vocals, bass and cello, Matt Montgomery on keys, and Omar Cuellar on drums.
Stephens recently performed Live on KEXP from the Ace Hotel NYC during our annual CMJ broadcast. You can check out photos from the session here. His MySpace page reveals very few tour dates left, for now, but since the debut is only fresh off the presses we hope to be seeing more of him soon.