It is counterintuitive to take the route the band Stories Told took. To my knowledge, they have played in very few productions over the year leading up to the release of their 2016 EPonymous record, and the lineup of the band also changed at the beginning of last year. They have spent most of their time since as a band in studio making this record. We would have expected something of the path most bands take to build their reputation and the demand for recorded material, which is to play a bit more often, and probably in the buzzier venues, and release a record when the opportunity and the buzz helps them. We may have a guess why they chose to do what they did, but I can only call it a brave move. Such a move aims to set Stories Told apart, and it turns their EP into a genuine calling card for a very young band.
This is where I feel EPonymous succeeds as a record: it gives us a glimpse of a band aiming to make decent power pop, strongly influenced by the alt-rock of the late 1990s and early 2000s. The influence is most pronounced in tracks such as their single “Surprise Me.” Much of the 15 minutes goes on with the band leaving a good impression, hitting most of the right notes in the process. One not quite so right note: I felt they could have left “Surprise Me” for last given that they put in an “amen” chord of sorts in the end, which I prefer that bands leave out in recording unless they wish to make an ironic, lyrical point. “Elephant in the Room,” which reminds me a little of Barbie Almabis’s late 1990s work, is my favorite track here—it starts cold, continues strong, and ends quietly.
What could weaken this record’s reception is that it does sound like its antecedents all too well. There is a bit of promise in how the band takes on what is probably a pretty worn-out genre, especially in something like their last track “Sydney,” which, sound-wise, goes all out on how it takes on the conventions of pop-rock music. There is something of a family resemblance to Dearest, another band in the alternative pop sphere, but mainly because of how their vocal harmonies bring something different to the table. What Eponymous shows that Stories Told have a good place to start given how well they play and sing, but they have some way to go.
On balance, EPonymous is a well-produced record, indeed a well-made calling card, but not yet the record that could take power pop ‘round these parts in a more interesting direction. Where Stories Told will go next with their music is something that should come, I hope, with a bit more time on the road. (Ren Aguila)
The entire Eponymous EP is now available on Soundcloud. Physical copies are available from the band.