‘With endless earworms, versatile vocals, and anthemic tendencies, it proves how polished his songwriting really is.’
Intro to Stef Taylor
Returning with renewed enthusiasm and an even greater sound than before, this Friday (23rd April), Stef Taylor brings us his latest single ‘Rusty’. Taking a reflective approach, the track addresses Stef’s fear of time going by too quickly, while also referencing the reasons behind both the break he took from songwriting after his early twenties and his recent musical comeback. As Stef expresses though, this track may not have happened at all if it wasn’t for what we have all experienced over the past 12 months. “The first lockdown gave me a bit of time to re-evaluate what I wanted to do in terms of goals and ambitions, and I decided I wanted to write music again.” If ‘Rusty’, a release that makes us wonder how Stef ever thought he’d lost the knack is anything to go by, returning to songwriting was the best decision he could have ever made. Read more at: Behind the Music: Interview with Stef Taylor
While some releases take a few seconds to get going, and others may take a while to get you engaged, in the case of Stef Taylor’s new single ‘Rusty’, neither is true. His vocals soar into our ears, carrying the perfect balance of soul and rasp. The accompaniment of momentum-filled, yet delicate guitar chord progressions sends anticipation into your bones. And the combination of both is one that you would expect from an established singer-songwriter, not one who only returned to it 12 months ago. Put simply, you can just tell there is to be nothing ‘Rusty’ about what we are going to hear.
Immediately pushing home the lyrical content and highlighting his ability to beautifully set his phrases of choice, opening line ‘Days, days go so fast these days’ feels effortlessly familiar. Instantly it finds a place in your head. Instantly you feel compelled to join Stef and become part of the track. If it’s your first, fifth, or tenth time of hearing it you’ll feel like you’ve heard it many more times before. But in generating that exact sensation, a completely unforced and so perfectly natural connection between performer and listener has been created.
Sending this approach through the verse, while there is a reflectiveness brought by lines such as ‘When I was 19′, the blend of these with more collective passages such as ‘Time, time has moved on somehow’ brings a huge sense of relatability. We’ve all, I’m sure, had moments where we’ve looked back and recognised that things have changed. In doing so, you can of course progress, and through Stef including that very line, he stylishly and metaphorically nods to the all important break that he took.
With both the lyricism and its setting delivering so much already, you could be forgiven for not fully appreciating what is going on around it. However, like the vocals, the developments occurring elsewhere are not to be missed. Growing with purpose and direction, the energetic strums are joined by a glorious combination of foot-stomp inducing kick drum, delicately picked bass lines, and harmony enhancing piano.
Sure this is a semi-classic combination – one that is very often used – but here, sounding refreshed and triumphantly anthemic, it generates an innate response of heady togetherness. Furthermore, with the crowd-pleasing, confidence-affirming earworm of ‘I am only Rusty’ just on the horizon, as well as an alternation of synchronised accents and rhythmically replicated bluesy guitar solos, the sense of everything working as one is fully showcased.
“When I returned to songwriting, I kept telling myself that I hadn’t “lost it” but was in fact just “rusty”,
and as long as I persisted, the songs would come.”
Building on what we have heard to this point, as we progress a plethora of changes infuse the sound. Filling each element with additional interest, the percussive centre becomes rhythmically complex to an extent that should overpower but doesn’t. Summer-tinged instrumental fragments break through, causing your face to bear a smile in recognition of the incredible level of musicality. And then, of course, we have Stef’s gorgeous vocals. Embellishing the ever-reflective, ever-embracing lyrical content with trademark and much-loved luscious harmonies, his polished musical prowess shines brightly above the expertly controlled accompaniment. Oh, it truly is wonderful.
Having already proved that his musicality is arguably better than ever, with the arrival of the bridge we get a deeper insight into the inner feelings around Stef’s return. Revealing a vulnerability, rather than the powerful, yet restrained vocals continuing, in slipping into his faultless falsetto we are redrawn to the story behind the track. Projecting the phrase, ‘I, I thought I’d lost it’ – it being his knack for songwriting – you can’t help wonder if he realises how strong this track actually is. That said, with cymbal splashes and expansive harmonies appearing in the most sensitive manner, you also get a sense that, like what is about to occur, they know it’s something rather special.
Enabling us to appreciate every element for what it is, for the only time in the track everything gets stripped back. Taking on a near a capella form, the lyrics that grabbed us so firmly at the start return. However, now set in a way that’s beautifully intimate you truly register the strength of them. Likewise, in Stef bringing a tenderness to his tone, carefully controlling his vocal slides and throat catches, and becoming more expressive with every single word, it doesn’t take much to imagine a crowd going pin-drop silent, completely captivated by a spotlit Stef. But then, when you experience the sonic rebuilding that takes us to the closing chorus, it’s just as easy to imagine them cheering for an encore too.
Give Stef Taylor’s new single ‘Rusty’ a listen below and presave it here.