Album Review: Stick Figure - Set in Stone
Multi instrumentalist Scott Woodruff and Stick Figure have produced a 14-track album that has been over 3 years in the making. Recorded for the most part in a cabin in the Santa Cruz, California mountains, the lead single Fire On The Horizon has the psychedelic, yet modern feel of some trip hop, like Morcheeba or the Sneaker Pimps with the moodiness of Portishead. It progresses into a straight up one drop reggae rhythm, but with keyboard sounds that harken back to the 90’s.
That is a common thread throughout the album, moody intros that glide into reggae grooves, breezy keyboard sounds flowing into catchy chorus lines and tasty ad libs. Its messaging reflects the balance between struggles and contentment in one’s life. For In This Love lead singer Woodruff’s vocals are multi-tracked with ethereal delay effects and bright piano sounds. Sound of the Sea has the sharp, bright feel of an Alpha Blondy bass line as the lyrics pour out soul-baring melancholy.
Choice Is Yours is a combination with Slightly Stoopid’s Kyle McDonald who chats over a bubbling “Steppers type rhythm. The tempo slows down to a deep one drop groove tinged with dub effects for Mind Block where Scott trades verses with Eric Rachmany of Rebelution. Together they explore the creative spark that comes forth in the songwriting process.
Sentenced brings the drama of tangoesque melodic ideas and fuses them with a rocksteady style rhythm. As the story unfolds, the subject is locked up in a prison cell for murder. A driving reggae rhythm takes on the end of a love affair in Out The Door with its invective “Give me one good reason to love you, I’m in love no more, walking out the door I don’t need your love.” A segue from the end of the relationship is the aftermath Weary Eyes representing the healing that comes after the storm. This is the first time a dub instrumental of any length appears in the songs and it feels as authentic as the soul searching lyrics. The band frequently saunters into “dubwise” while performing in the live setting.
Collie Buddz joins Woodruff and Stick Figure for a combination on “Smokin’ Love” with piano lines and a chord progression that are reminiscent of another Collie Buddz tune Let Me Know. It’s like the answer tune here, an invite to blaze up the chalwah and have some smoking love.
The album themes of romantic love continue with songs like Shadow, One of Those Days and All My Love that rock over one drop reggae grooves. Woodruff possesses the gift to create hooks that use his mid range falsetto tone to draw the listener in and to sing a long.
Existential angst and the duality of life is explored on Sunshine and Rain as a Sly Dunbar type of drum effect delays the snare and Woodruff reminds us to “keep on smiling”. To close the set a bubbling organ on Smiles On Faces drives the groove and the message, to “never take yourself to seriously.” Epic, dramatic keyboard builds trade lines with a solo guitar as the tempo slows down to a conclusive reminder that the band puts “smiles on faces.”
Stick Figure have amassed a wide following as part of the “West Coast” style reggae movement that is on fire these days. The multifaceted talents of Scott Woodruff reflect the zeitgeist of the times as the 90’s babies who grew up listening to trip-hop are now part of a new hybrid music format.
LISTEN TO THE FULL ALBUM:
Stick Figure - Set in Stone
DIGITAL RELEASE [Ruffwood Records]
Release date: 11/13/2015
01. Fire on the Horizon
02. In This Love
03. Sound of the Sea
04. Choice Is Yours feat. Slightly Stoopid
05. Mind Block feat. Eric Rachmany
07. Out the Door
08. Weary Eyes
09. Smokin' Love feat. Collie Buddz
11. One of Those Days
12. All My Love
13. Sunshine and Rain
14. Smiles on Faces feat. KBong