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Will Phalen & The Stereo Addicts - Middle West
up a stout second helping
Review by Tony BonyataBuilding on the strengths of their 2007 debut Visions and Revisions, the Milwaukee-based alt-country band Will Phalen & The Stereo Addicts have produced a stout follow-up on their newly released sophomore effort Middle West, which, like their previous record, melds age-old country, blues and folk with American Heartland leaning rock sensibilities.
But whereas Phalen & The Stereo Addicts seemed to be searching for a voice and sound on Visions and Revisions - alternating between songs that captured the spirit of greats such as Neil Young & Crazy Horse, Gram Parsons, Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers and even Dinosaur Jr. - on this effort they manage to forge a uniquely Midwestern Americana sound. Not only does Phalen's deep, gravelly voice sound more fully realized here, but his songwriting has also improved, as witnessed on the beautiful numbers "Like Rain," the folksy "Clown Parade" and the harrowing "I Don't Know Why," which is visited by the otherworldly presence of analog synthesizers. And songs such as the expertly crafted "Illinois Line," "Until The Clouds" and the more up-tempo numbers "This Time" and "I Can't Run" find Phalen's knack at whittling a composition down to its bare essence more in line with modern contemporaries like Ryan Adams and Wilco's Jeff Tweedy.
Phalen's strong melodies, along with lyrics that explore the people and psyche of his Midwestern homeland, create a sturdy frame for his backing band The Stereo Addicts (featuring members of Decibully and Freshwater Collins) to create a rich tapestry of guitars, banjo, mandolin, violin, cello and the occasional syths and electronic loops for ambient texturing.
This fantastic follow-up to an already great first effort should, hopefully, help expose this talented band much further than just their Midwest boundarires.
Will Phalen & The Stereo Addicts will be performing at Summerfest in Milwaukee at the Harley-Davidson Stage at noon on Wed. July 1st.
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