As one of Austin’s more recent music success stories, southern rock outfit White Denim sets the standard for the perception of the city’s ever-evolving music scene. However, with their new album Stiff, the band might give the wrong impression.
Formed in 2005 as a combination of several local bands, White Denim broke out in 2008 after receiving the Austin Music Awards’ “Best New Band.” Since then, they’ve released several albums, combining indie rock with southern tendencies to create songs centered around extended jams. On Stiff, the band continues with this style but lacks the surprises that once made their
From the get-go, Stiff does very little to distinguish itself, lacking in the variety to keep the attention of the listener. The album’s first song and single “Had 2 Know (Personal),” is fun with its catchy and looped riffs, but the next two tracks sound almost exactly the same. “Ha Ha Ha Ha (Yeah),” incorporates some soul elements but lacks any distinguishing characteristics from the previous song, and the third track “Holda Ya (I’m Psycho),” sounds as if it could be your new favorite TV show’s lackluster theme song.
The rest of the tracks on this album include little quirks in an attempt to stand out, but few deliver. Whether it’s failing to capitalize on the slow-paced “There’s a Brain in My Head” or mind-numbingly repetitive lyrics in the album’s well-named concluding track “Thank You,” there’s always an element or two in each song that keep it from reaching the heights it could reach.
There are even a couple of tracks — “Real Deal Momma” and “Mirrored in Reverse” — that sound far too much like they could have been ripped straight off of a Gary Clark Jr. album. The record has an overall vibe that lacks originality, unlike many of their previous releases, making it a difficult pill to swallow for longtime listeners.
The one exception to this trend is the album’s fifth song, “Take it Easy (Ever After Lasting Love).” There is clear influence here from Austin blues, but the more intriguing element is a Marvin Gaye and Isley Brothers vibe that draws the listener into the track’s somber message on love. Beyond this diamond in the rough, there’s little to no replay value on Stiff.
Taken individually, the majority of tracks on Stiff are actually quite fun. Bluesy riffs are riddled throughout almost every song, and with their simple and straight-forward messages, White Denim is able to draw in listeners on a track-by-track basis. However, as a whole, these tracks blend into one simplistic experience, making it a forgettable rendition of the stereotypical southern rock sound.
Genre: Indie/Southern Rock