In 2011 my friend Omar and I were both living in Los Angeles, and we drove to the Bay Area. I remember my CD player was broken, so we brought a boom box, some burned CDs, and some tapes. That boom box played such an important role, because it was the first time I heard Stephen Steinbrink.
It was sunset at the Berkeley Rose Gardens, and Omar was playing a tape of a live set from a show Stephen Steinbrink played where he covered the BeeGees. That moment has stuck with me. I remember being enamored with this honest musician’s voice. This person who was so talented, and able to make me feel all my feelings with this a single note, who also was brave enough to cover the BeeGees.
Fast forward seven years, Steinbrink is in regular rotation in my stereo, and I can only imagine that Utopia Teased will be no exception. This record is the perfect record going into this winter season. Its a record I can see myself shutting into with anticipation of it warming up again.
This record is honest, and as I dive deeper, it feels important. It holds a sense of urgency that I have only heard in artists like Arthur Russell, the kind of urgency that forces you to stop your chaotic life, take in a moment, and just listen and watch your surroundings.
My favorite song is Empty Vessel. There’s a line where Steinbrink says “ if you don’t stop moving, you won’t get hurt,” and as soon as he finishes his breath, the song abruptly ends and goes into the next song, “Maximum Sunlight,” were he keeps referencing lyrics from “Empty Vessel.”
I love the abruptness he practices in songs like “Zappa Dream,” where he quickly changes the tempo not once but twice. Again, at the drop of a breath, it feels like a whole new song. The record feels like honest pop hit after honest pop hit with all the eccentric styling of acid-infused rock, not in your “Sergeant Pepper” kind of way but in a more relatable and tangible kind of way.
All in all, this is a record worth diving into. I am excited for the state of music, and it makes me happy that people like Stephen Steinbrink are still creating in it.