Milano-based troubadour Stefano De Stefano has been keenly admired by Backseat Mafia since our very birth when we lauded his band Pipers back in 2013 and then his solo stuff under the name An Early Bird. Stefano has shown dedication and passion for his craft throughout the years we have known him: beautifully composed and acutely observed songs infused with romanticism and poetic delicacy. Even more admirable is that An Early Bird songs are written and sung in English considering Stefano is Italian and based in Italy.
Now understandably signed to German label Greywood Records, An Early Bird goes from strength to strength: his hard work rewarded in his new album ‘Diviner’. Stefano says of the new album:
Diviner is probably the record that best describes my songwriting process along the years. Some songs are very old, written in 2005, some others are quite new and a few ones were born during the European tour of my EP In Depths. But each song in Diviner is the perfect piece of the music puzzle I wanted to create. It’s a positive record about love & life that strikes a chord and make you think about your connection with people. If you can find the location of water or precious minerals you’re a diviner: this album aims to bring something special to the surface.
It is indeed Stefano’s ability to connect through his romantic and artistic visions that makes this album a shining, sparkling delight. The instrumentation is lush and vivid, the melodies with more strength and range than the Dolomites and just as picturesque.
Opening track ‘Help Me Shine’ is quite and reflective, filled with a haunting aura and swelling instrumentation. Stefano’s voice is infused with a melancholia: yearning and warm. A key feature of An Early Bird’s sound is the interplay with the tinkling pianos and shimmering guitars over a bed of swelling strings.
‘Fishes in the Ocean’ catapults him onto a whole new level. It’s a song that transfixes and mesmerises – one that floats and shimmers in the ethos.
The vocals recede in the mix, somewhat, compared to his previous work, in the face of gorgeous and lush instrumentation – a haunting piano refrain that tiptoes gently through the sonic landscape. For the most part, Stefano sings almost in a falsetto – a whole new approach – and this suits the songs perfectly.
The melodies are ascendant and imperial – creating a pulse-quickening rush and become ingrained indelibly into your psyche. The frail majesty of the song raises the hairs on the back of your neck. An absolute delight:
Third track ‘Prayer in a Temple’ displays Stefano’s soft, melodic vocals and folk roots with its gently arpeggiated guitars and percussive sounds. The sound just bleeds romanticism – an innocent and bucolic air, reflected again in ‘Bad Timing’ with its imperious presence.
‘Holding onto Hope’ showcases Stefano’s intricate guitar play: crystalline and glowing and intertwined with the rhythmic piano. Again, as with the entire album,Stefano has a strong pop sensibility: each song blessed with celestial choruses and indelible refrains.
`Stefano’s versatility is exemplified in ‘One Week’: a track that veers into a bluesy, soul-infused territory. There is an almost Beatlesque jangle to the sound and the melody. The plaintive yearning and the swelling strings is moving and effecting.
‘Mulholland Drive’ drives at a slightly faster pace with a sense of urgency with a syncopated beat and uplifting vibe:
The inherent romanticism threads its way through ‘Under My Skin’ with its devotional lyrics and rolling guitars and pianos: a statuesque melodic delight.
‘Diviner’ is a beautiful collection of reflective indie pop songs cloaked in a velvety folk aura, filled with expressive romantic yearning that shimmers and glows. An Early Bird has created something that is majestic and powerful, a testimony to the skilled songwriting of Stefano. You can download/stream the album here.