Just when you think you have a reading on this band, your reading will change. The Maladies of Adam Stokes are a band that could be rock, roots, pop, and probably other things as well. Their not relying on any one formula makes City of Trees a fairly tremendous album.
I was reminded heavily, at least in the first few songs, of Graydon James & the Young Novelists. That’s not really much of a surprise- the two bands have played together before and will be playing together again for the Maladies of Adam Stokes CD release party.
The opener is “Hide in Here,” a very pleasant song that adds instruments as it goes along. Lead vocalist Mikey Hill as well as Emily Anderson make for very pleasant vocals and sing lyrics like “Oh my darling, I’ll light a fire/We’ll just hide in here.” And then there’s “Type You’ll Forget,” a more upbeat song than the previous. It’s supported by a nice combination of multiple guitar lines, a keyboard line and some call-and-response in the chorus.
Suddenly the music shifts from a more roots-flavoured affair to some more straight-up rock. “Hollow Love” begins the buildup of intensity, with its driving bass line and marching-band style drums. It then flows near seamlessly into “Oceans,” which features a steady line of electric guitar and some unexpected horns.
After such a buildup, “City of Trees” comes as a relief in a sense, returning to a slower, and actually almost solemn pace. It’s easily the most emotionally-charged song, with little more than an acoustic guitar playing the melody. It’s got a powerful line, repeated a few times: “You saved my life when I was alone, you saved my body when I bled from my soul.”
“See You in Another Life” and “Crooked Hand” signal a return to the band’s roots-rock sound from earlier. The latter song also features the first inclusion of banjo, and I can never get tired of numbers with a surprise banjo part.
“When the World Bursts to Flames” features some lyrics as violent as its title, while “Fall of the Moor” begins yet another two-song build in intensity. This eventually leads to closer “Kingdom Come,” a song that seems to be firing on all cylinders.
I found that this album grew on me more each time I listened. It’s definitely an album that requires a slightly more careful listen to pull out what makes it so great. Because it is pretty great.
City of Trees is available from Bandcamp.
Top Tracks: “Oceans” “When the World Bursts to Flames”
Rating: Proud Hoot (Really Good)