Utopia Teased

Stephen Steinbrink Utopia Teased Review For Northern Transmissions
Utopia Teased

Our Rating

8.5/10

If you can transport listeners somewhere unique in your music like Stephen Steinbrink, you’ll have them coming back again and again. For his newest release, Steinbrink is always making a soundscape to spark your imagination. Though it lacks a good mix of moments, Steinbrink lets the album as a whole serve as the memorable focus of his music.

For the mood that Steinbrink wants to set on this album, he wastes no time creating a lo-fi atmosphere that you can truly breathe in like air. As catchy tracks like “Bad Love” show, every little detail is perfectly thought out to the larger scheme of the record while feeling fun in its own right. Steinbrink does bring out a strong sense of lyrical poetry and overtly pretty wordplay to keep his songs light and fun. Where other tracks drive, “I Wanna Be Free” floats along with a kind of joyous looping that keeps you grinning and redefines many of the riffs he uses for his aesthetic. As you slip into “A Part Of Me Is A Part Of You” there’s a lot more focus on groove, for Steinbrink to slowly evolve his composition into something wondrously complex.

With a light touch of “Instant Crush” from Daft Punk, there’s a mix of spacey beauty to “Empty Vessel” that blends in with the nostalgia. It’s the overall feeling of warmth however that Steinbrink breeds within the song that holds it together though. The delightful drum link to “Maximum Sunlight” helps drop you into its shimmering guitar lines and enveloping bass lines. In this way Steinbrink mesmerizes you in his playing much like how the sun does to us daily. After all this flourishing guitar playing, “Zappa Dream” is a surprisingly relaxing track, with Steinbrink focusing on the depth of each instrument rather than the technicality behind them. In this way the song really elicits touching emotions again and again, with the simplest little note before he opts for a heavier rock moment later on.

Steinbrink takes a moment to change gears to sonically colourful folk on “Coming Down,” as the album transforms without too many sticking points. This is what makes the tender and personal drive of “Mom” so powerful, and lets him bring things down for a little bit without completely making the piece feel out of place.

However there’s a wonderful kind of Coldplay meets 70s McCartney feeling to “In Another Kind Of Dream” that starts to evolve into one of the album’s highlights. With its rich pianos and trickling of effects, the track showcases the full breadth of his lush production, which is only explored differently on “Become Sphere.” Steinbrink hits his pop highs on “You Could Always Leave” with the right kind of wisdom and humour to make the track all the more fun. It’s this mix of emotions and the musical tones to match that allow him to slow-burn it forward on the album’s longer tracks.

Words by Owen Maxwell