Ever wonder what the sounds of Nashville really feel like? What the lights, the cars, the crowds of people and the deluge of lights might sound like? Michigan-born and now Nashville based, percussionist and singer Reed Stewart’s tightly-wound track, “Stick Shift” from the album Mallet is a killer tune. It just might be the soundtrack that digests the glory of Nashville’s flair. Far from the world of pop music, Stewart’s commitment to creating unique musical stew is quite inspirational.
“Stick Shift” starts and ends quickly. Just as in the movie Whiplash, an almost feverish collection of cymbals, brass, bass drum, quick hands, electronic rhythms erupt. Stewart’s vocals are almost an afterthought. His words are clear and precise, but his emotion and the rawness of “Stick Shift” is juicier when it’s just the musical bed. The music cascades and dances around his lyrics – his words like “revealing a level you tried to hide behind” are sung in a way post-punk or New Wave artists might gravitate towards. Stewart’s voice is shy. Is Stewart holding back? His voice doesn’t boast itself in the same way the musical bed dominates the track. Listeners might find similarities to Aphex Twin or Four Tet. The progression of percussion is palpable.
About the bridge of the song, Stewart enlists a softer, sadder piano or synthesizer. It’s not certain which – only that the sounds is wonderfully contrasted to all the other moving parts in the little machine he’s created. As so much energy is devoted to the music bed, leeway can and should be given to Stewart’s limited vocal range. His smattering of airy sounds mixed with potent synergy surely compensates for this shortcoming.
“Stick Shift” is a bewildering tune in that it does evoke an industrial feel – think Depeche Mode Music For The Masses. Still, “Stick Shift’s” bright meandering of keys and underlying pulses, deliver the goods. The song takes a few listens – it may take that extra effort to ingratiate itself into your musical library and playlists. It’s worth the trial. “Stick Shift” takes the listener down enigmatic roads, some dead ends, twists into airy vocals and even pockets of overpowering drums. It’s not a sun-kissed pop track. It’s brain food and the trick is to eat in little bites before the delicious percussion is fully marinated. Food analogies aside, “Stick Shift” leaps into the soul of the listener and doesn’t loosen its grip until the 3:49 completion.
Supposing Reed Stewart’s “Stick Shift” is further indication of the power of artistry in the album, Mallet, Stewart should have no problems building a groundswell. The way he has composed “Stick Shifts” is frightfully good and honest. At its very core, the song connects and sends the listener into a reflective mindset. It sets the stage for a new journey – a modern road with little wiggle room for deviating into less than serious mood. The soundtrack needed for a modern world – constant distractions and messaging from all sides – Reed Stewart parlays a splendid amount of percussion in “Stick Shift.”