Himalayan salt lamps and a friendly French bulldog added to the ambiance at Truphonic Recording last night during a press preview for Stop Light Observations’ new album. The disc, Toogoodoo, will be released on August 26 with a debut at the Charleston Music Hall. The popular Charleston rock band has been spinning tracks since high school days at Wando, but this new album took things to another level. The disc was recorded live in a cabin at Toogoodoo Bluff, hence the name, featuring William Blackburn on vocals, John-Keith Culbreth on synth and piano, Louis Duffie on guitar, and Luke Withers on drums.
The Stop Light Observations (SLO) crew was present along with Mark Bryan of Hootie and the Blowfish, who was charming and amicable, passing beers around and super enthused about the new disc. Bryan has his hand in a lot of projects around Charleston, and he was passionate about this latest creation by SLO, offering full support. Other important members of the scene were there, included but not limited to Matt Zutell of Coast Records, local musician Clay White, and Charleston City Paper music editor Kelly Rae Smith. It was a good crowd, and the atmosphere was bubbling with a heightened sense of belonging blended with excitement.
While snacking on a yum-tastic veggie tray and indulging in some white wine, I got to chat a little with Blackburn about the new album…and also Pokemon Go, because you can’t not have that conversation. A few members of Atlas Road Crew got in on the conversation as well, and we all quickly discovered that I was the ultimate Pokemon champion between everyone. That’s right; level 12! There were even a few Pokemon staking out at Truphonic Recording, which were quickly snagged.
However, when it came to the disc, Blackburn talked about just how meaningful it was to come together on this project as a band. He talked about how this was really the first time that they felt like a true band. There was a unifying element and a deep-rooted emotion that is vividly noticeable in each track that presented itself while recording together at the cabin in Toogoodoo. Along with a heavy passion, Toogoodoo also presents a variety of innovative synth and rhythmic elements as well as naturally impressive instrumentals, particularly in the guitar department.
The listening took place in two rooms of the studio, one where Toogoodoo was mixed and the other where it was mastered. This was after it was recorded live in the Toogoodoo cabin. Note: this album would’ve still been impressive if it wasn’t live, so the fact that it was made it even more so. However, I can owe a little bias to the incredible speakers at the studio that created a heavenly sound unlike any other my little virgin ears had ever heard. It was glorious; Target earbuds be damned. I scribbled some notes about each of the tracks as they played, closing my eyes in a few moments to get truly absorbed in the lyrics and sound. The one thing this disc did spectacularly was build up, continuing a consistent rise before the break.
The first track was “Dinosaur Bones”, which was released awhile back as the typical radio hit. With a catchy chorus and jungle echo, this stand out track was called out by an attendee in the room, who stated, “That’s a jam and a half right there.” Solid response.
Track two titled “Idle Hands” had an indie rock kick with intricate, scrolling guitar leading to a heavy, wild chorus. Rifty guitar and bass lines were key players, along with quieter moments marked by soft, airy vocals before leading the sonic explosion.
Track three, “Security”, entered with a magical synthetically created lithophone and some serious bass before entering a train-like percussion chug. The investigative lyrics are self-searching and raw, storytelling of this worldly search for security, which society tells us should lead to our personal happiness. “All I really need is two cold beers, a hot bitch, and security,” the lyrics repeat sarcastically. Pursuing music instead of job hunting brings some insecurities of SLO yet also achieves this obvious self-satisfaction that can’t be reached following the “safe” path. The secure path simply leads to a profound discovery of “Shit, why don’t I feel happy?”
“Know It Alls” was a solid pop rock number with a fun feel and lyrics of love and drunken nights. The pursuit of love is the enigmatic theme. “Aliens must think we’re crazy, but I like to think we know it all,” comes before a sweet, romantic ending.
Track five, recently released “Aquarius Apocalyptic,” is one of the most badass songs on the disc, featuring an introduction with some quick-fingered Spanish guitar work before entering these epic rises and falls/stops and starts. My notes literally are: “hard rock → spaz moves → light guitar flare → WHAT GOES DOWN MUST COME DOWN → space noises → synth at warp speed → guitar shrieks → epic explosion.” That pretty much sums it up.
Track six titled “Dead” then takes on a different feel, introducing some Southern bayou blues into the mix. The harmonic entrance with a nighttime cricket-hum backdrop turns into an unexpected swampy guitar blend with epic build ups, crazy drops, and fiddly explosions. It reminded me of a harder Family and Friends-type orchestral creation.
The follow-up, coming in at track seven, sticks with the bayou blues, heavily powered by electric guitar, heavy drums, and rich harmonies. There are some lighter moments to balance things out, including some singer/songwriter acoustic moments and softer vocals. However, the symphonic texture evolves into a swamp rock expedition with some intense guitar shredding amongst a cluster of sounds.
Track eight offers some vocal reverb and a heartfelt message that “Love makes the world go ‘round.” A heavy metal kick leads to a space vortex with some rough-edged guitar squeals and epic shreds. My notes explain the sonic process as a journey from sensual wails to crazy sex to orgasmic scream.
Folk guitar and an intricate melodic texture appear with track nine, while track ten keeps things soft with gray skies and a search for home and self. The introductory verse, as pointed out by Clay White, sounds like “Video Games” by Lana Del Rey, with a soft hook.
Track eleven hits all the emotional points, however, beginning with a 9/11 live broadcast and evolving into some truly profound and heartfelt lyrics. “I’ve seen three colors become gray” was one of my favorite stand-out lines. There is so much passion in this track, and an ultimate message of hope and peace. “If we come together, we might realize we’re all the same.”
The last track has a deep cyclical feel and features some electronic drums, as well as rolling guitar and a dark, heavy orchestration. The camera flashes taking place in the background acted like a light show. Then, as a special treat, we all got to hear a “Thank You” track from SLO made with some electronic love.
Stop Light Observations new album will be available for streaming and purchase on August 26. This is one you need to listen to.
TOOGOODOO Track Listing
- Dinosaur Bones
- Idle Hands
- Know It Alls
- Aquarius Apocalyptic
- For Elizabeth
- Give To Get
- Stepping Away
- Who You Are
- The 50 Ways