We review the new album from Steve J. Allen – Contrast

Passionate, intense, and truthful. Steve J. Allen’s new album ‘Contrast’ is eleven tracks of exactly what he wanted, whether people like it or not. With a diverse toolkit of sounds, you’re never certain on what you will hear when it moves to the next song. There’s a bit of something for everyone.

We jump in with ‘Outlaw’, which creates the expectation that it will belong in a classic cowboy film. Weirdly enough, it sort of does. Allen has taken an approach that you don’t see very often, an approach that can only be described as Spaghetti Western meets folk. 

Moving further into the album we next hit ‘The Anchor’. A brooding experimental track that ends in a clatter of typewriter noise, and demonstrates how easily Allen can decide to change the album’s feel. He next shows off this fast-moving route of sound through the soft acoustic track ‘Lotus Eaters’, which then transitions straight back into a traditional folk sound in ‘No Time’. ‘No Time’ is the sort of song you can imagine stamping your foot to in your local pub and is sprinkled with some Dylan-esque harmonica just to boost the noise.

The first single from the record, ‘Old Friend’, is next on the tracklist. Allen has explained that ‘It is a song about reconnecting with a childlike trust of your intuition. It almost feels topical of our time in which people have to make many intuitive adjustments.’. It’s the big, philosophical, life-reflecting song that you frequently find on an album. There’s always got to be one.

A running theme of switching up the sound out of nowhere continues moving further down the line. 

Following the spooky half-time interlude that is aptly named ‘Mystery Interlude II’, we are given a touching tribute about the loss of an early friend in ‘For Joe’. This only bolsters the sentiment that was already present in the album.

In the final four tracks, Allen takes a slight indie turn. ‘Slap In The Face’ and ‘Indistinct Chatter’ have an unmistakable acoustic indie feel. This carries through in ‘Means To An End’, but slightly differs through a dash of electric guitar that makes everything a little more noisy.

After a confusing road of unexpected songs, everything gently comes to an end with ‘Other World’. It allows you to catch your breath and eases you out of the album peacefully.

If I had listened to all of these songs separately, I’m not sure I’d know to piece them together as an album. Somehow, however, Allen has made it work. 

He has done it his way, and it is unapologetically his sound. It’s a true representation of the music Allen wants to make. ‘Contrast’ is out on the 3rd September for you to give it a spin!