Stephen Smith are a soft indie pop band who take their name from their resilient lead singer. Their 2013 EP, Take Your Time, blends warm acoustic sounds and fuzzy guitar into a four track love note.
The first track, “Lover’s Side” hits you with several hooks, most notably from the vocals of Stephen Smith, who delivers in a swooning style similar to Passenger. The way he plays around with enunciation is clever and sometimes quirky. But it fits in well in every song. Take a listen to the opener – sharp, biting syllables in the verses contrast beautifully with the drawn out chorus. The fluctuation of tempo is really attention grabbing, and adds a punchier element to the track.
Speaking of cool little touches, the band rip out groove by pausing a beat, then accenting a beat. This works cohesively in ‘All I Can,” and is distinctive of Stephen Smith. It’s somewhat overdone in “Lover’s Side,” but the arrangement is solid and it adds to that driving feel despite the softness of the song.
There’s a spaceiness that is understated in the tracks. With a little push it could sound more epic, similar to Coldplay’s X&Y album. “Take Your Time” sounds similar to “Lover’s Side” in places, but there’s an emotional build up towards the end which hooked me back into the song. And it definitely has the best melodies on the EP. It’s that piano which especially gives it feeling – a determined openness that sticks in your mind even after the song ends.
The vibrant drum mix and over-driven guitars of “Calloused Hands” remind me a soft Brit-pop – Starsailor springs to mind, especially with that strong beat. Although, this song and others could do with a bit more spice in places; some simple, quiet effects would have added a bit more depth and differentiation to each track.
A couple of songs could have been trimmed by a few seconds for easier listening, and not diminish in quality.(I’m looking at you “Lover’s Side”). Still, this is truly an EP you can take your time with (no pun intended). There’s lno urgency amongst the tracks, just pleasurable listening that you can spin again and again. Take Your Time can be streamed or purchased through the Stephen Smith Bandcamp page, with a couple of tracks also on Triple J Unearthed.