Something Deeper Than These Changes
Los Angeles singer-songwriter Mark “Stew” Stewart has been alternating stripped-down solo albums like this one with records by his psychedelic pop band The Negro Problem for the last several years. Combining literary wordplay, stream of consciousness monologues, an ear for indelible Bacharach-ian melodies and a smooth soul man voice, Stew’s songs insinuate themselves into the subconscious like a spooky dream.
Stew’s main partner in crime for this excursion is singer/instrumentalist Heidi Rodewald who provides the sweet-sounding vocal counterpoint on tracks like the piano-centric opener “Love Like That Can’t Be Measured Anyway.” Here Stew laments not listening to his family and appreciating their love as a child: “Too bad it takes so long to reveal the holy mission / The candy wisdom hidden away in your lunch box mind you’ll find / Tastes like nothin’ in the world today.”
Stew’s offbeat approach to songwriting is in full flower on “Statue Song,” which is told from the perspective of a sword-wielding statue. “The pigeon shit ain’t as bad as you might think it would be friend,” he sings.
Backed by spooky organ, he chronicles the pros and cons of alcoholism on “Kingdom of Drink”: “London, San Francisco, New York, Rome — every dive I visit feels like home / In Saudi Arabia it’s very tough — but you can find a Guinness if you look hard enough.” And Stew turns in a sweet little birthday song for his daughter on “The Sun I Always Wanted.”
A few songs here become a bit repetitive and wear out their welcome, others could stand to be fleshed out more musically. But Something Deeper Than These Changes is still a compelling showcase for this oddball troubadour.