On Sparkle Endlessly (out on the Sound Judgement imprint), Stoner Control sound like themselves. This is a feat achieved by virtue of the trio honing their skills as individual songwriters and musicians and as a working group. Singer/guitarist Charley Williams, singer/bassist Sam Greenspan and drummer Mike Cathcart, are each diligent students of their craft.
Greenspan and Cathcart, college classmates at Portland’s Lewis & Clark, met Williams when their previous groups played a show together. The three bonded initially over the albums of Green Day, Oasis, The Rolling Stones, Wilco, and Creedence Clearwater Revival. It was pretty clear from the start there was enough musical ground in common to form a band of their own. Stoner Control’s sound in turn became one ever enamored with the endearing endurance of big riffs, endlessly listenable melodies, chugging rhythms, and heartfelt vocals. Over the last five years, the Portland trio have refined their style while playing in Portland’s underground circuit of basements and bars.
Doubling down on the creativity that has always been there, their third album features the group’s broadest sonic palette to date, one highlighted by musical guests(hark! a trumpet!), reaching vocals, honesty, and deliberately considered tones, guitar and otherwise. Recorded with Mo Troper and Brian Harvey at Singing Sands Studios, the colors in the palette presented here are familiar but brighter. The group has always written with sincerity but here there are moments granting a closer view of the phosphenes seen beneath closed eyelids.
Our best songwriters, after all, are world builders who let you into a little bit of theirs. If there’s a sentiment you can relate to, all the better. Over the course of the ten songs on Sparkle Endlessly, the Portland trio presents for your consideration musings they’ve carefully considered. “Learning To Swim” is centered around the question of whether their generation is fated to witness the accelerated destruction of our home planet through climate change. “The Best Thing”, ponders connections between humans and the way our personal climates ebb and flow. The song starts out almost at a whisper before building towards an eruption that can no longer be tethered. On the title track, they consider whether we would be better off with the monkeys. Animals, after all, express themselves largely without pretense. A trumpet solo, courtesy of, Elian Conroy shines here, and the guitars sparkle endlessly too. Passion expressed through instruments says what mere words can not.
Shimmering guitars permeate the album’s 37 minutes. Guitars on “Only” gallop along at a pace that would make Johnny Marr blush, while Catchart’s drums chug like Dinosaur Jr’s “Just Like Heaven” cover. On “Open Ocean” the group experiments with each other’s instruments, Williams on drums, Cathcart on bass, and Greenspan on guitar. It’s a testament to the group’s mutual respect, and that doesn’t always come easy.
Like most things, bands come and go. Today’s song of the day ends up in next week’s bargain bin. It takes a lot to sustain anything, let alone a relationship dependent on multiple axis points. Common goals must be communicated and committed to. It takes intention, trust, and a mutual sense of both respect and admiration. Stoner Control have grown together as a band and they’ve grown into a band comfortable in their own skin, and comfortable being themselves. On their most collaborative album so far, they make a bid not just for endurance but for the eternal.
Praise for Stoner Control:
“…pop-friendly nearness to the loosey-goosey allure of early Pavement…” – KEXP
“You will hear flashes of Built to Spill, Ted Leo, Elliott Smith and Telekinesis in Stoner Control’s peppy but slightly snotty indie rock (which isn’t a bad combination).” – New York Times