Stephen has arrived. The vocalist/producer who has only just begun to make his impact felt on the music scene just released his debut album, Sincerely, today, and I would be lying if I didn’t admit that I have already listened to this album over 100 times (and that’s not even an exaggeration). Let me preface by saying that this is hands down one of my top 5 favorite albums of all time, and that bias will almost certainly reflect in this review.
Now that you know what you’re in for, let’s take a listen to this album so you have a better understanding for why I’m so obsessed.
Now that I really have your attention, let’s get into the nitty gritty of this spectacular LP.
As always, I’ll begin at the beginning. The first song shows off the sole feature on the album in the form of a provocative monologue from In-Q. Spanning just two and a half minutes, this is, in my opinion, the perfect opening to an album. Powerful, emotive, and just short enough to not lose my interest.
Segueing quickly into “Your Life,” it becomes apparent that Stephen has a very distinct and unique sound which maintains a wholesome continuity through all 10 songs. With what begins as a ballad, “Your Life” eventually evolves into a future bass-style “drop” section, drawing on a danceable energy to set the stage for song number three, as well as setting a theme for the entire album. My favorite part of this second piece of Sincerely is that Stephen is very clearly singing to himself, yet it still resounds powerfully for the listener.
Song three is a motivational anthem titled “Remember Yourself” that carries with it a more recognizable pop structure. I’d hazard a guess at this being one of the more popular releases in the LP, but I still enjoy the sh*t out of it all the same – despite my subconscious desire to be a hipster.
“Line It Up” comes in at number four, and this is really when the album starts to pick up. Whether this one is a track about hooking up with some random chick or about a love/hate relationship with cocaine (akin to The Weeknd’s “I Can’t Feel My Face”) we’ll probably never know. It’s one of the more fun and lighthearted tracks on Sincerely and certainly serves its place well.
“Fly Down” switches up the tempo to a more emotional track with a larger piano presence than the previous songs. It’s brutally honest and details an addiction to a high which almost everyone can relate to in some way, shape or form. This is where Stephen’s poetic verses and introspective lyricism come into play in a more tangible way than the previous four songs.
“Solid As A Stone” brings back up the energy levels with blissful harmonies and newfound vigor. The two-part anthem flows seamlessly into “Outro” which is indubitably one of my favorite of the 10 pieces on Stephen’s debut album. Despite an extremely brief two minutes, as expected with a track simply titled “Outro,” this is the turning point of the LP where the protagonist has rediscovered himself now more than ever.
As the last three tracks of the album approach, I marvel at the flow of Sincerely and Stephen’s ability to tell a transcendent story of self-discovery and struggle. The eighth track, “Mr. Man,” somehow feels nostalgic even if you’re hearing it for the first time. It delivers a distinct, evocative vibe in the progressing synths and accompanying vocals, and the claps brought in to close the four-minute work of art prompts a feeling of unity to bring us towards the finale of this incredible LP.
Suddenly, we’re at track nine with “Crossfire.” This song has already amassed well over 4,000,000 plays on SoundCloud as one of the early single releases. But the accompanying music video pulls it all together. It puts forth a powerful message which works to show just how blind we are to the evils of the world, and simply put it’s one of the best music videos I’ve ever laid eyes upon. From the profound lyrics to the spectacular genre-defying production… “Crossfire” and its accompanying video embodies my definition of artistic perfection.
Finally, it’s here: the title track “Sincerely.” This epic ending ties all the loose ends together, closing the last page on this epic saga in spectacular fashion. The guitar finale, the emotion apparent – this is it, this invitation is for the ones who loved… Sincerely