CD - Gatefold Alt Packaging
Σtella makes her Sub Pop debut with the mesmerizing Up And Away, an old-school pop paean to the pangs and raptures of love. From the Greek folk-inflected get-go, we’re swept up in Σtella’s world – and it’s quite the captivating place to be.
The singer-songwriter joined forces with artist and producer Tom Calvert (aka Redinho), and it was a match made in Athens; the results are heavenly. Tom caught one of Σtella’s gigs on a visit to the city. He reached out, they started hanging out, and the pair soon clicked creatively. Both mention chemistry when asked about their collaboration and it’s clear, from what we hear, they had it in spades. The meld is seamless.
Σtella’s songs have always riffed on American and Greek mid-century pop but Up and Away doubles down on the vintage aesthetic. Tom says he styled the record “as if it was a rare gem from the ’60s found in a box of records in Athens,” and Σtella notes she was ready for a more “deeply Greek touch – it felt comfortable and right, smoothly fusing with the pop.” The bouzouki appears on a full five tracks played by Christos Skondras who, she says, “was brilliant at improvising,” while Sofia Labropoulou on the kanun “brought an insane amount of dreaminess to the last two songs. Having these amazing musicians play for Up And Away – I couldn’t be more grateful.”
While not exclusively a confessional artist, Σtella is always intimate – when she sings, it’s personal. She says she writes, “about things I feel passion for. Stories about me, about others, about all that’s there in love and war. ”While she won’t be drawn out on more private inspirations for this album (“There were one or two interesting things going on in my life, but we won’t be going into those…”), Σtella will say she was, “in a very emotional state at the time, which came through in the lyrics and vocals.” And it’s true, her honeyed voice – layered in those unmistakable harmonies of hers – thrillingly runs the gamut from tender to terse, by turns bracing and smitten, aching and forlorn.
But it’s the lyrics that feel key. Across her output, Σtella has proven herself a strong storyteller, and Up and Away is no exception (the guise of the medieval bard she assumes on the cover is telling). Past releases have been studded with gem-like vignettes – a diverse array of stories set tightly together to form non-linear narratives unified by emotion. Her latest feels singular in that it seems to trace a longer-form tale across songs, with each track escalating the record’s erotic arc. Rollicking album opener “Up and Away” launches us headlong into an all-consuming affair. She’s caught, she shivers, thrilled by a new beginning, the sweetness of her vocals offset by vertiginous, blistering blasts of bouzouki. And so the sensual scene is set.
1. Up and Away
5. Another Nation
6. Black and White
8. The Truth Is
9. Who Cares
10. Is It Over