Don’t Check Out Review
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If you need proof that StaG is not your typical band, just look at the story behind their name. According to their bio, it’s “a reference to Herman Melville’s children, Stanwix and Malcolm: Malcolm died by gunshot, presumably suicide, but Melville said Stanwix’s gun was always under his pillow and accidentally went off in the night—hence Stanwix’s accidental Gun.” But does this atypicality translate well, if at all, to their music? In the most typical terms: yes.

Don’t Check Out is the type of album that most bands spend entire careers trying to make. In sports terms, it’s the culmination of a definitive game plan and the ability to execute. StaG know exactly what they want out of this album, and they pull it off to as near perfection as one can get, starting with opening number “Colorado/Suicidal.” For many bands, this song would be the headliner, but to StaG, it’s just the beginning. Pitting vocals and instruments against each other for rhythmic control during the verses and then bringing them together into one big, rapid, heavy-rocking chorus is an adrenaline shot right off the bat, instantly showing StaG’s confidence in what they have by leading off with such a dynamic rocker.

Then “I Don’t Belong Here” comes in and sways you into a true preview of what’s to come. It settles the beat down quite a bit and steadies it out, but it still keeps it fresh by layering it with perfectly timed guitar strums and simple synths, setting an understated background for the true star of the album: the lyrics. With following titles like “Loneliness Comes,” “Don’t Check Out,” and “Love Is Waiting,” it isn’t hard to guess what the subject matter is, but the clever structure and seemingly endless explorations make what could otherwise be a stale topic feel revitalized.

That’s not to say that the music suffers as a result, though. In fact, it only gets better, shifting between quick, medium, and slow(ish) rhythms. This creates a nice flow through the entire album, once again highlighting the thought that was put into it—just as well if not better layered than “I Don’t Belong Here,” while also incorporating new instruments like the xylophone (“My Empathy Is Dying Out”) and synth variations like angelic voices and organ (“Code of the Schoolyard”). Yet, for all its musical achievements, they only stand to compliment the lyrics, which combine with the music to offer a truly fulfilling experience for not only the ears, but also the mind.

Most music can stand on its own—either musically or lyrically—but very rarely both, which is why such albums are considered great. And this is a great one.

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