“Stop asking your friends for band suggestions”: the promo message The Blue Stones created for the release of their newest album is a bold statement. The social post-campaign to share the pre-order of Hidden Gems perfectly mirrors the gritty, fierce style on which the whole album is set.
The Canadian duo is all about sharp interruptions of music and voice, followed by harmonies building the hype towards the climax. Heavy basslines, drum passages set on fire, and the audio experience start. 10 tracks in which the typical echo sounds of alternative bands as Linkin Park or even Imagine Dragons meet the innovations and ability to run and build on the notes and the chords to create new pictures and curlicues that recall so much of the first Muse songs.
The album starts by creating the right atmosphere to help the listeners’ mindset focus on what is going on. ‘Lights On’ starts and ends, and is everything we want and more. Reedy but raucous, brisk and rapid, an alternation of contrasting elements, pushing and pulling of fat-sounding drums, then a majestic “tutti.”
‘Shakin’ Off The Rust’ comes at the right moment, with a rapid pace that raises the minds. Now we are one with the music. Eyes closed, we can see the stage, we can feel the people in the pitch, hungry for more. The guitar’s riff is incessant, building the hype towards the refrain where the rhythm explodes, preceded, and followed by a simple, millisecond-long pause that drives crazy.
‘One by One’ has got us thinking we are in the middle of something big, yet we are not even halfway through. The rhythm easily follows one of the previous songs, adding a more melodic sound to couple the words that keep playing repeatedly. The tune jumps on and off the ears, alternating the bass sounds and the drum’s irregular beating in a joyful but constrained melody that comes out soothe and refreshing.
The relentless flow brings immersive sounds perceived at the highest degree of intensity, and ‘Careless’ is anything but careless. The feeling is that of being in a dark place, wandering around without a destination—a stream of consciousness, a mental palace in which to get lost.
‘Grim’ “it’s just so good/it’s just too good” and ‘Let It Ride’ is something new. The real hit of the album, with sharp variations, lyrics, and engaging rhythms prompting wild and relentless dancing.
The abrupt start of ‘L.A. Afterlife’ recalls Greta and The Machine. The groovy rhythm is an awesome bridge for the transition towards ‘Spirit’: an angry riff, a guitar line that is exactly what The Blue Stones’ spirit is about, their signature. No wonder the F1 chose the track to be one of the songs on the list for the coveted competition’s official playlist.
‘Make This Easy’ is the lullaby that takes us by the hand and gently guides us towards the end of the journey. “Let’s be real/so we can heal once more” is the prayer, and whether the request will ever be fulfilled, it is left open. “Let me make this easy/for you”: and ‘Oceans’ starts, the perfect conclusion, the tune stuck in the head, infectiously hummable.
This album is a journey, from the harsh beginning towards the sweet ending; there is a whole auditory experience that soothes and fulfills the listener, who is left longing, claiming for more. The dopamine released is almost too much. A marathon could be run, knickers to the wind, with The Blue Stones singing and playing in the ears and still have energy. This album truly is a hidden gem.
Hidden Gems is released on March 19, 2021.