Album: "Telepathy" by Stagbriar
Release Date: Sept. 15, 2023
Runtime: 37 minutes, 3 seconds
Stagbriar subverts expectations at almost every turn with its new album, "Telepathy."
Made up of Columbia brother-sister duo Alex and Emily Mcollum and their band, the album focuses on themes of loss and finding the meaning in life. The album is their first in three years.
The first song, “Slick," perfectly sets the tone of reflection and boredom for the rest of the album. Emily Mcollum sings about someone, a lover perhaps, who only wants something from her, while expressing her annoyance over a fun, energetic beat. She details her exhaustion with lyrics like "Been here before. Nothing new, bright or shiny." Overall, the fast-paced bounciness does a good job of drawing the listener in.
In terms of beat and vocals, the song "Thumbs" can be hard to tell apart from "Slick," but while "Slick" explores exhaustion, "Thumbs" describes the type of anxiety that comes from being too aware of yourself and the situation around you.
Alex McCollum sings, "Don’t you tether us to the time you’re wasting. I don’t want to bite that bullet." The song feels like a stream of consciousness as McCollum asks questions about the world and complains about it. However, it sounds all too similar to the first track, which can become repetitive, and take away from the depth of the music, as the listener can't really tell much of a difference between the two songs.
"Non-Toxic" is a swift and welcome departure from the beats of the first two songs. The guitar is slower and softer — only building up towards the end when Alex McCollum asks if he can be enough and sings, "Does it even fit the bill. Does it just be sittin' still? Can I convince myself it will?" Throughout the song, McCollum searches for a meaning in life, wondering if it can be found in making a scene in public, or perhaps simply by maybe calling his father.
"Tall Socks" returns to a bouncy beat and fast guitar, with melancholy lyrics that reflect on life, singing "I was once a young pup … I’m still an old dog." The song almost feels like a father talking to his son, delivering criticism and advice.
However, the father is also self-aware, as towards the end he questions if he can even change anything about himself. The metaphors are strong, urging the listener to think deeper about what they’re hearing. While the song is interesting to listen to, it comes off as a bit unorganized. There is an overarching theme of time passin, but the song seems to be trying to incorporate too many themes, which can make it harder to follow.
"Call Back in the Morning" feels like a late-night phone call, with the vocals being scratchy and soft while the guitar is low. In the song, Alex McCollum doesn’t seem to have a lot of faith in himself to call someone back, as he never says, "I will answer you then," but rather, "I might answer you then." The song makes an impression on the listener with its simplicity, as it is incredibly different from the rest of the album.
Similar to the sleepiness of "Call me back in the Morning" There’s almost a dreamlike quality to "Lies," with its heavy use of metaphors and airy style of singing. Alex McCollum seems to be trying to save a relationship with the repetition of "I wasn’t telling you lies." Whether or not that is true is unclear, the entire song seems to be intentionally vague, in order to let to listener decide for themselves. Unfortunately, the vagueness can come off as too esoteric, as the metaphors can be lost on a casual listener.
"Toxic" is the most straightforward song on the album. Alex McCollum feels defeated as he sings, "I’m so sick and tired. I can’t get enough." The focus seems to be in the voice instead of instrumentals, allowing the powerful exhaustion in his voice to shine through and stick with the listener long after.
The title track "Telepathy" is told from the voice of a misunderstood lover who seems to bottle up their emotions until they burst. The song starts out slowly but gets louder and faster. The voice and the instruments clash as he sings, "Are you listening? Are you listening? Are you listening?" This comes across as almost begging to the listener. Throughout the song, both parties seem to be in the wrong as one refuses to communicate, while the other refuses to understand. This song is especially powerful, as the anger and anxiety seems to build and build, creating sense of tension.
Despite the title, "Road Rage" is slow and full of regret. It encapsulates the empty, sad feeling of thinking about someone long after they have left your life, as you focus too much on who they were and the plans and ideas that were never carried out.
"The Last One" is not the last song on the album, but it is a fact the song itself seems to be aware of as Alex McCollum sings, "Is this the last one? We’ve still gotta track one." The song's focus seems to be on time, specially taking time for yourself in a busy life. "I want a place by the lake. I’m sorry I won’t be taking on more clients," expresses the desire for a quiet life with fewer responsibilities, which is a sentiment felt by many listeners.
"Irish Goodbye" is like "Toxic" and "Call Back in the Morning," with the focus on the vocals instead of the instrumentals. "Irish Goodbye" is a lament on an ended relationship which is a theme throughout the album, but it works especially well as the last song.
The song feels like a blend of all the most hard-hitting elements of the album, such as lamenting, sad vocals and lyrics that are straight to the point and heavy.
With fun instrumentals to draw the listener in and expert lyricism to keep them interested, "Telepathy" is an album with a little bit of everything. However, while the lyricism is complex, it can come across as hard to understand even after a few listens, along with being repetitive with the instrumentals and vocal style. While no album is without flaw, "Telepathy's" flaws don't get in the way of appreciating the work as a whole.