Empty Vessels LP
Stonedog are a British alternative rock band based in the Netherlands. Their first album was released in 2005, but they go back even further. They were spotted playing at a festival in Northampton in the 90s alongside Corduroy, Sneaker Pimps, Goldie, and Cornershop.
Full disclosure, I wielded the sticks at this show, and the bass player exploded his appendix to the delight of the crowd – you don’t see that level of commitment to art anymore. Since Jon Davies moved to the Netherlands, he’s put eight albums in the bag, I grabbed the most recent Stonedog long-player, Empty Vessels and gave it a spin. I also had an enjoyable time working through the back catalogue.
There are some immediate qualities to Empty Vessels that provide a solid theme to the songs. First and foremost, the guitar playing features steel-strung electric fingerstyle playing. We can safely say this is very rare. The intricate arrangements are surfaced through songs that also fizz and rock, with a vocal that dips lower in places than most pop and rock records.
‘Sink Below’ is a great example of this. It starts with the guitar, with the vocal joining for the first verse. The song then thickens up into a full band arrangement with an extra sparkling guitar motif. There’s a soaring solo section that provides a big emotive lift to the song.
A more driving version of this style arrives later on the album with the dark mystical ‘Adeline’. The guitar tells half the story in this song, with the abstract lyrics and haunting backing vocals conjuring a superb atmosphere. This is my favourite song on the album.
Other styles include the crunchy strums present in ‘Found My Style’ and the interesting 3/4 ‘Dancing Ledge’. There’s a bit of funky bass and wah-wah guitar in ‘A Touch of the Vapours’, with a rhythmic switch that makes the chorus pop.
Everything on this record is good, with the songs that showcase the more unique guitar style definitely standing out with star quality.
Recent Album Context
If you listen back to past albums, you can chart the improving production album-to-album. The mood and style of each album is also distinct. 2017s Paper Cuts and Acid Tongues had an alt Britrock sound with added atmospheric moments. Whether it’s the sultry ‘Beachcomber Lane’, or the fuzzout ‘No Brakes’ there’s a quirky twist to the songs on this record.
The Echo Chamber (2019) should also be on your shopping list. It has some rockier songs with added metal-esque triplets. Highlights include the grungy ‘Mother’, the new-wave ‘Maelstrom’, and the moody ‘Fear Dies With Me’ are all great listens, with ‘Whim’ providing a hint towards the style of Empty Vessels. The album also features the Head on the Door era Cure-esque ‘Beginning at the End’, which is a stunner.
The more you work back through the history, the more you’ll discover (including a well-wrought version of ‘Cage’, which both musically and lyrically shines). Jon manifests his talents in many different ways throughout these recordings.
Written by Fenton on