The Stereophones, “Trouble.” Imagine this concept: In the span of one month, you must write a song, record the song, make it perfect, and then also create a music video. There are reasons that artists take a few years to release a new CD and then they release maybe a couple music videos for each album… because it takes a lot of time and a lot of effort. But The Stereophones have set a new bar in what’s possible.
Over the course of 10 months, they’ve released ten singles and ten music videos. This album (collectively called “Trouble”) has come to its climax with the latest track “Boom” being released on June 1st, 2011. This review will cover their tracks, their videos, a piece of artwork associated with each track, and then a look at some of the remixes that have been made.
Some history. The Stereophones consists of two brothers, Kayhan and Kevin Ahmadi, from Concord, CA. They’ve had some success prior to this project with the band All Heroes but have since started their own project. Together, Kayhan and Kevin record each track together, playing usually multiple instruments each.
As we discuss the tracks, follow me along on their website here.
Of the 10 tracks on “Trouble,” there are mostly successes. Overall, the variety is incredible. The album opens with poppy and upbeat “Fight,” which is the perfect gateway song to get into this album. It’s fun enough to attract a lot of fans but introduces you to the vibe that they’ll be carrying through most of their tracks. For those of you looking for one of the most upbeat and positive tracks on the album, look no further than the reggae-pop track “Thumper,” mixing the steel drum sounds of reggae with some stellar guitar riffs and an incredibly infectious chorus.
As the album continues, The Stereophones dive into some new genres and styles, often with success. The heavy synth track “Getaway” features some amazing hooks in the form of the repeating synth in the chorus. Months later, the chorus to this track still haunts me (in a good way). It’s a much darker sound than most of the more accessible tracks, but those that give this song a chance and a couple of replays will likely fall in love with it. My favorite part is the bridge (featuring guest artist Marla Faith) and the slight harmonies which you feel more than hear. “I’m not running away, but I’m running / What I’m trying to say is I’m trying… to getaway” is a clever phrase, especially when you consider the strategic pause between “trying” and “to getaway,” which changes the phrase completely.
With every song I love, there has to be something on the opposite spectrum. Their peace and love anthem “Live in Love” fell flat for me, though I appreciate the sentiment. I’m a little conflicted about their rock epic “Amerijane” as well. There’s a monologue in the song near the end that I think can take the listener out of the song. The addition of horns to this track does give it a cool sound but the monologue hits the brakes on whatever momentum this track had.
You can follow along with me on their YouTube page here.
I think the videos are the real star of the show here. The songs (which sometimes don’t do anything too innovative) are brought to life by videos that are always trying to do something new and exciting. Just as “Fight” was a pretty accessible song for fans of all genres, the video for this same track is also probably the easiest for everyone to enjoy. It’s a fun video and it’s especially clean and you can feel a lot of effort went into it.
The acoustic track “Leaving” utilizes time-lapse but the true poetry in this song comes from the paintings that come to life as the song progresses. It’s an incredibly original idea but also summons the same emotions that the song invokes. Truly breathtaking. The song “Games” features a stop-motion chess match in which one side’s King falls in love with the other’s Queen. They communicate via emoticons and it’s just a really fun video.
The video for “Thumper” features the style of webcam chatting (such as ChatRoulette). This video relied on the small but dedicated community of fans, who submitted their own webcam videos to be used. The end product was fun, with Kayhan Ahmadi attempting to serenade these strangers. His reactions to the varied (and sometimes really strange) webcam videos is genuine and entertaining. When the message at the end reads “Unable to find partner” it strikes a truly poignant note as the song fades out.
Even though the song “Amerijane” wasn’t my favorite, I think the video for the same song is an epic and stunning work of collaboration. It features 11 different “shows” and the video scrolls through as if you’re flipping through channels. In video format, I think the monologue fits, as the characters from each TV show stare you down and bring home the message that The Stereophones were trying to get across.
Their track “Credit” also gets a cool video treatment, as it’s shot in one take. The song repeats “I don’t have the money” as the set for the video is actually taken apart by black suits in sunglasses, acting as some sort of debt collector / Men in Black hybrid. In one take, it’s an ambitious idea that pays off.
The latest and last track on “Trouble” has a stunning video as well. “Boom” (which is a rather violent name for such a beautiful song) features two stories. One is of Kevin Ahmadi hauling a podium around, seeking an audience. He struggles to find anyone to listen to him. The shots are gorgeous though, as he stands facing the ocean or facing an empty forest. The duality of the video comes with Kayhan’s part, as he plays piano to empty fields. The scenery pans behind him and it’s very visually stunning. The two parts play extremely well off each other and complement the song to a tee.
Each track is also released with a piece of art, either inspired by or which inspired the music. Some pieces to take notice of include a haunting image of two hands cradling a heart made of cocaine (“500 Days of Cocaine,” artwork by Shirley Morales) and then the vicious cycle of finding and losing love in the piece for “Leaving” by Justin Gibbs. My two favorites.
The Stereophones have embraced letting other artists play with their original material, so quite a few remixes have been released and there are a few which sometimes even outshine the original. To follow along, head over here and then click on the album “Bletrou.”
Their spearhead release “Fight” comes with two and amazing remixes, in different ways. Amir London Khostavan did a standard remix with all the bells and whistles you’d expect but it is a perfect complement to the original song. It’s fun, it’s upbeat, it’s catchy, and it adds some cool piano riffs which match up perfectly. The second remix of “Fight” is done by YouTube parody artist AsianGlow. Cleverly, the word “fight” is censored in this song, changing the main hook to say “I heard you wanna ____ me.” This is a fun remix and actually sounds really clean and gives the song a whole new identity, which works in a weird quirky way.
Music producer megaMIKE (aka Mike Calpito) did a fun and poppy rendition of “Thumper,” which was already probably the poppiest song on the album. It didn’t do anything innovative with the track but it gave it some extra oomph which makes the song almost (dare I say) more enjoyable than the reggae version released by The Stereophones. My musical taste is a high dose of pop, so maybe that’s why I prefer the remix (although the reggae original version is still a highly enjoyable track).
With the preface that I usually prefer upbeat and poppy, that might account for why some of the remixes didn’t really do it for me. But maybe you’ll find one you really love. They also only have remixes posted for the first six tracks, so now that “Trouble” is finished, we’ll likely continue to see remixes posted.
This project was admirable and they succeeded with flying colors. To be able to not only produce stellar tracks but innovative and creative music videos is quite a feat, especially considering both brothers are still in school.
If you’re looking for a band that keep up with and that is really about community, look no further. You can even contribute to the community by creating art, poetry, even possible remixes if you’re skilled in that area.