Sometimes its difficult to pinpoint exactly why a band and/or song resonates. Having seen New York-based Been Stellar at The Great Escape in Brighton in May I was captivated. It seems I wasn’t alone as it resulted in a return to these shores last month to play a number of gigs. They say timing is everything and so it is with this 5-piece who have now released their self-titled debut EP on So Young Records.
Opener ‘Arthur‘ immediately grabs the attention. The scuzzy guitars creating a dramatic backdrop and leading the way. The vocals are a mix of sung and spoken but always melodic. The mid-track electricity created with that spikey reverb and the vocal getting more and more urgent see Been Stellar set the bar very high with the opening track.
‘Manhattan Youth’ again leaps into life instantly with reverbing guitar, pounding drums and a shouted vocal which altogether produces a track with perhaps more zest and edge than previous tracks. The electric guitar chord is so captivating mid-track, and the vocals continue to get more and more powerful and perhaps agitated as the song progresses, before finishing as it started with that reverbing guitar and pounding drums. Lyrically, it’s inspired by the romanticised version of New York, which is not the reality.
Is it possible to describe music as large scale? ‘My Honesty’ is an epic 4 minutes. Inspired by the search for authenticity, the irony is that you sense Been Stellar are providing an honest portrait of themselves and the New York City they now call home. Loud and quiet, sung and spoken, creating tension and destroying it again, soaring and dipping, the 4 minutes are a microcosm of the complexities of life itself. This has an indie-rock sensibility but with a passion and emotion which sweeps you along.
Been Stellar expand on the background to the creation of the EP:
“This EP is the culmination of two years of isolation from the city that we love. While its earliest tracks began pre-pandemic, the work largely began in a practice space in Ridgewood, Queens in a sweltering summer of 2020. No one was able to work, and no one was able to socialize outside of their direct bubble, so we spent most moments in this space trying to create authenticity out of our strange spot in the world. The result is 5 of our most earnest reflections of ourselves and our environment. Each track touches on different emotions/sounds, but the through line is very apparent, at least to us. We see this record as a formal introduction to ourselves, but this is simply the preamble for what is to come.”
‘Kids 1995‘ is the earliest of the singles on this EP. Its opening lyrics of “I watched the movie ‘Kids’ and then had a dream about you and me” lodges as an earworm after the first listen. This is a soaring, emotive track full of passion in its construction and delivery. Repeat listens continue to create the same response. You have been warned. A standout track on a thrilling debut EP.
Final track ‘Ohm’ is a slow burner, and that is merely an observation not a criticism. At five and a half minutes its easily the longest track on the EP. It slowly grows and builds, the soundscape really is the star of the show on this track. “Its easy to come back, harder to let it go” are the closing lyrics of this glorious EP, with a final reverbing sliver of electricity to finally see it out. Been Stellar have produced a breath-taking debut EP and if this a preamble of what is to come, then I simply can’t wait.