Glassmaps – Strangely Addicted

Glassmaps – Strangely Addicted

Joel Stein, lead guitarist of Australian indie-rockers Howling Bells, demonstrates a keen ear for melody on his solo album, Strangely Addicted. Under the band name Glassmaps, Stein, with help from Howling Bells drummer Glenn Moule, debuts with ten tracks of infectious, understated pop-rock songs.

The album offers sonic variety, all unified by uncomplicated melodies and Stein’s attractive tenor. The confident, sauntering “Summer Rain” picks off a raunchy, blues-based riff; the psychedelic-folk of “Golden Dayze” reminds one of a Syd Barret melody; and then there is the crisp, simple ballad, “I’m Sorry,” which hangs in a moment of regret, the vocal channeling a sincere but practiced apologist tired of hearing himself say, “I’m sorry / I wish this was different / I’m sorry / I know this must be hard.” The bass-line and rich touch on drums add dimension to the lovely, elegantly elementary lyric.

The album’s catchiest song is “In The Shadows.” It’s a terrier. The lyrics immediately take hold; “Dancing in the shadow of love / See my shadow on the wall / Dancing in the shadow of love / If I’m not careful, I’m gonna fall.” But the rest of the album’s hooks are more subtle. The melodies often land softly, like dandelion spores, and take root, blooming in your ear after the song ends.

Had it been recorded by a less talented artist, Strangely Addicted’s control and restraint might have been a turn off for fans of musical exuberance, catharsis, and mayhem. But the craftsmanship here diverts that negative response with professionalism. The album is, strangely, sort of addictive.

My favorite song is “Inner Place,” a dark horse near the record’s end. I like how the sedated vocal floats indifferently over the groove between the acoustic guitar and drums; the loose guitar playing tethers the vocal to the beat. The tom drum treatment during the chorus and the gentle touch on bass guitar are also distinguishing. As Glassmaps, Joel Stein has compiled a whole LP’s worth of such unassumingly good songs built around simple melodies.