Thursday, October 22, 2015
Stephen Chopek and Margaret Darling
Listing Loon, 4124 Hamilton Ave, Cincinnati, OH
Stephen Chopek has always been a bit of a restless soul. But finishing his most recent recordings – the EP series Things Moving, On Their Own, and the album Things Moving on Their Own Together – was a lesson in patience.
The experience of making his previous album had been focused and concentrated. Recorded in five days, just Stephen and an electric guitar, he called it See Through – an homage to completing his first LP as a singer and guitarist, but also a nod to the naked transparency of being a songwriter, sharply felt by the seasoned drummer who’d spent most of his musical career up until that point seated behind a drum kit with Charlie Hunter, John Mayer, Jesse Malin, The Alternate Routes, The Everymen, and many others.
In contrast, the songs that would become the two EPs and full-length album he’ll release throughout 2015 (starting with Things Moving, out via digital release only March 10) were recorded over the course of five months and several hundred miles. As Stephen found time between session gigs, tour dates, and a move from Jersey City to Memphis, he would spend a few days here and there in Virginia, recording with Chip Johnson at Alpine Red; then mixing and mastering in Connecticut with Mikhail Pivovarov. The process breathed a bit more, and every song was a work in progress.
In sequencing this series of releases, Stephen focused on the fit of sonic puzzle pieces rather than lyrical themes – and yet, they bubble up. Where he shies away from the traditional first-person narrative, he dives deep into the pop form. A deceptively simple guitar line grabs your attention (“Systematic Collapse”), a chorus floats into your consciousness and follows you (“Staying”). The drummer-turned-songwriter has fused folk and punk, in aesthetic and attitude, with masterful pop melodies on Things Moving on Their Own Together, the final release in the series, out September 29.